Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Losing (the Church of) My Youth

I was raised in a small town in central Utah, and many of the sprawling orchards of my youth are now cookie-cutter subdivisions. I used to walk to my grandparents' house on Saturday - including 5 miles where I passed about a dozen houses. I visited a couple of years ago, and the distance walking among the trees and farmland has shrunk to less than half of what I once enjoyed. Some of my parents' neighbors have moved further west to "get back to the country." My four-ward town now has two bulging stakes. I used to know every kid near my age in town - quite well; my brother's and cousins' children now know fewer kids their age than I did - in a town over five times the size.

In many ways, I've lost my hometown - at least the town of my memories. I understand intellectually why it happened, but my heart never will accept it fully. I probably will never be back to live there, but I miss its simplicity, nonetheless.

In the same way, over the years I have lost the church of my childhood. There was a time when it all was easy - black and white - so clear and unambiguous. There was a time I saw "as a child" - and I loved and am grateful for that time of innocence.

Now, however, I have grown and put aside childish things. The church of my youth might not exist for me anymore, but I wouldn't go back to it. The church of my adulthood is messy and nuanced and baffling and frustrating at times, but it also is inspiring and challenging and growth-inducing and joyful. I glory in it, and I find glory in it (even amid the occasional goriness of it) - and I wouldn't go back to the church of my childhood. I am at home in the Church I know and love now, and anyone who has seen my house will tell you I don't mind the messiness as long as I have the love and growth and joy (and challenges) I experience in it.

4 comments:

Patty said...

I love your perspective. And I needed a reminder to get over what I've known and loved in the past and embrace the more mature knowledge I have now... even if I still sometimes wish I could go back to the more innocent and easy times.

the Phipps Clan!!! said...

This is a great post. Things have changed so much for me as well...even in the semi-short period of time since my youth. I agree that while it would be nice for things to be how they use to, we wouldn't be challenged and therefore wouldn't grow. Sometimes growing up stinks...:0)

Four Acres said...

Thanks for the insights--I've been feeling much the same way lately, that life is far more complex, paradoxical, and downright messy than much of what we hear at church would lead us to believe. I've just started reading a book called "The Soul's Religion" by Thomas Moore which addresses these issues and talks about how it is in the very messiness and uncertainty at life that one finds one's soul.

Papa D said...

Patty, I'm glad you got what you needed.

Maria, I still can't believe you have grown up as much as you have.

Four Acres, I call it the "muddle in the middle" - and I agree that the most growth is found there (at least for me).