Your heart knows when you don’t belong.
There was a time I was still sensitive to the opinions of others, in the sense that I felt a need for affirmation from my associates. It was the nightmare world of my childhood, but with a somewhat more subtle socialized face on it.
Early in my ministry, church folks were polite, and I suppose they genuinely appreciated some of my talents. God provoked me very early to serve in the ministry, and it was obvious to most that I was equipped. But my personal calling included a certain brash and clowning prophetic element that most people couldn’t take. Within any given organization, I typically found some portion able to bear with me, but seldom anyone in leadership. I seldom conformed to their subcultural expectations, and they seldom gave consideration to anything outside those narrow boundaries. I got more affirmation outside of church. And, no — their criticisms were nearly always very obviously from false motives.
In one particular church, people wanted my scholarship in biblical studies. Their standard educational fare was pretty weak, loaded with too much of their own narrow denominational focus, and it simply wasn’t commonly encouraged that folks actually know anything about the deeper biblical context. And it was plain that I could persuade others to follow my lead, because they kept following and liked it. But when I began a more active participation with the youth program, I kept running into that look from the more seasoned youth workers. I’d say something that was typically me, challenging their prejudices, and this mask would fall over their face, suggesting that they just didn’t know how to take me.
And sometimes their actions betrayed a silent rebuke. That was the worst part, because they seemed almost afraid to discuss with me what was going on behind that mask. Once or twice I pointedly asked, and the answers were dismissive. But that look, and sometimes the whispered discussions in my presence, was too much after a couple of weeks. I didn’t belong and it was obvious they weren’t going to tame me.
That was then. Somewhere along the path I realized I didn’t belong in any part of the mainstream, and that I needed to start rejoicing in the fringe identity of my ministry. I’m way out there somewhere on the very edge, sometimes even farther out on another planet, and that’s where I belong. Kiln of the Soul is very much a fringe ministry. I’m really not even a leader, just someone who stands out in the edge of the social wilderness, calling folks to come out if they don’t feel at home. Once you come out away from all the social strictures about faith and religion, you find yourself free to follow your own path. I can tell you about my path, but that’s only so you grasp the nature of searching. I’ll teach you about path-finding and how to handle the wilderness; you’re on your own after that. And so you should be.
While I appreciate genuine fellowship, I no longer need any significant human affirmation. I’m largely invulnerable to censure. So if any of those places where I felt out of place were to call me back, they’d find me so assertively alien that they would be the ones feeling out of place. Trust me; it’s happened a couple of times. I no longer burden them with my weirdness.
While I seek God’s face to know what comes next here at Kiln of the Soul, I think you’ll be seeing more prophetic stuff. Instead of a subtle prophetic temperament behind my writing, I’ll be more pointedly prophesying of things we could do better. And if not for us, then things the world could do better so that we’ll understand the moral truth against which it fails. So in a certain sense I’m taking up the mantel of prophet again, though I doubt I’ll need to make much noise about that.
I believe in you; your heart will know what to make of it.