Surprised by the 'Old Guard'
As the daughter of academics I was encouraged to be a free-thinker, especially when it came to God. My parents were not afraid of questions because their faith was so strong in the One who gives answers. Yet I lived (and still do) a paradoxical life: A home life of free-thinking and free-discussion amongst a community of "don't rock the boaters" - the Old Guard of evangelical tradition.
Amidst the Old Guard of evangelicalism, when I came out of Wheaton College in 1992, there was a group who left appreciating our evangelical roots, and willing to think bigger. One of my friends became the religious editor for the Chicago Sun Times. Another friend founded a church. It grew to over 10,000 people assembling each Sunday in less than a year - and is still going strong. This friend also started a not-for-profit, making short films with this ?new' take on Christianity. As a woman with leadership skills and a call to ministry this new direction for evangelicalism was very exciting.
A scholar, Bob Webber, (colleague of my father and dad of my best friend) would write books about this new emerging form of evangelicalism in his books such as Ancient-Future Faith and The Younger Evangelicals. All this movement in my tradition resonated deep within me. I read Brian McLaren's books A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In. I gobbled them up, along with the ideologies of the Emerging Church movement. Here were people putting words on what my spirit already knew. It explained why I felt like a fish out of water in my own tradition. It explained why now when I stood in a group of people discussing our faith it sounded as if they were speaking a foreign language. Without knowing it, I had started through that narrow passage that leads from one paradigm to another.
Then this paradigm shift got scary and painful. One author describes it as a "post-modern free fall." I found myself disoriented and confused by the different voices around me. Bob Webber finally left Wheaton and went to teach at Northern Baptist Seminary. Friends who went to college with Rob Bell and me started accusing him of teaching heresy. Brian McLaren and the Emerging Church movement were mocked and discredited. Yet these were my models. These were the voices amidst all the opinions that rang true.
So I did what I had to do. I took a deep breathe and pushed further into that cramped passageway. It hurt, and I'm sure I didn't make any friends and certainly lost some while I cried, whined, complained, and raged along the way. I was vocal with my opinions of social advocacy, respect of the creation, and particularly women in positions of authority within the church.
I lost the respect of people whose opinions I valued. My journey felt so honest and this loss of favor was confusing and hurtful. When asking sincere questions regarding the issue of women in authority the attitudes and comments I received burned the very skin of my soul. I felt the community around me was trying to beat me into submission. I went to the only place I could - deeper into that narrow passage and deeper into myself.
I had to. Eventually my models also fell away. I was disillusioned. I fell into a depression. Feeling alone and wondering what had I been doing? Why was I alienating myself? Was this paradigm shift real? What voices should I shut out? Whose should I embrace? The culture shock in my marriage was at a breaking point. This patriarchal model of church, life, and marriage was no longer working for me. I had changed so much and there was no going back.
And then it happened. While wrestling with my faith-tradition and my own sinful character traits (inherited from my faith tradition - pride, arrogance, short-sightedness, savior-mentality) I broke through to the other side and found myself in a place of spacious freedom.
I was finally comfortable in my own skin. My worth and authority was no longer bound up in the opinions of others. And my concepts of God and of myself were free to form within me. This new freedom of self also freed those around me. And a kinder, softer Shayne was born.
Today I live and move and have my being in the faith tradition of my youth. The pain and negativity has been replaced with gratitude and peace. Today when I am reminded the Old Guard still stands at the church doors keeping women out of leadership I find myself surprised, but not angry. In this place of spacious freedom, in this place deep within me, is the knowledge that I am a daughter of the King of Kings. All authority, my authority, comes from him. He will place me where he wants me and no man (or tradition) can stop him.