mike lives in spokane washington and is a pastor at a spirit community called branches

The Scarring of Faith and Flip-Flops

The Scarring of Faith and Flip-Flops

Awhile back, I bought Rainbow flip flops. They’re all the rage these days. Those leather gifts from heaven hailing from San Clemente, California. Wearing them makes you feel like a surfing god.

(Even if the one time you surfed you popped up once and the rest of the times you tried you went crashing into the water and the water rolled on top of you and you desperately searched for the surface and when you finally got your head above the water… you were 10 feet from shore.) 

I’m no surfing god. 

But I love my Rainbows. 

Anyone who has them talks about the way they morph to your foot. And it’s true! When I slip mine on, it’s like they are a tempurpedic mattress for my feet. An embodiment of all the comfort I could ever dream of.

But you have to break them in first…

When I first got my pair this year, I wore them none stop. Days where it was even slightly above 50 degrees, my Rainbows were on.

And oh how the blisters came. My feet looked like, and still slightly do, a battle field from the Pacific Theater in World War Two - with wounds and blisters taking on the appearance of scars in the earth from land-mines exploding.

My girlfriend finally told me to take them off for a few days. To let my wounds heal a bit. And then to put them on again. 

Breaking in flip flops is a lot like finding faith, leaving faith, and rediscovering it.

In High School I was that youth group kid you probably made fun of. I had a life outside the context of cheesy worship songs and sermons about why not to have sex. But by and large, my identity was found in the context of Edge, Kensington Community Church’s High School ministry. 

I was so involved that I didn’t even see the wounds it was causing me. 

How my misguided interpretation of things (I want to make this clear, my youth group leader had good things to say, I just didn’t always take it the right way) led to me being a little shit a lot of the time. 

Early on in High School, I would move certain religious books not within the scope of Christianity into the religious fiction section of bookstores.

I’d make the awful “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” jokes.

I could never understand why people would think differently than me or not laugh at something like insensitive jokes.

The sandals of my faith - the faith I was wearing at the time - It wasn't mine. It was inauthentic and misguided and damaging and something I felt a certain obligation to because of what the culture around Christianity seemed to promote. 

I had to leave all that for awhile. I had to take some time to examine my wounds and see the damage they were causing. I had to let the cuts turn into scars that I would wear as reminders to not go back to that place.

And I did. 

I started shifting my perspective. Largely through a few different things that happened in my life.

Like taking a literary theory class that didn’t allow me to assume answers about the world.

Like reading a book by someone named Rob Bell that opened me up to the idea of expansion in Christianity and new ways of thinking about the world.

Like going to a Bible college for a year where almost everything I heard rubbed me the wrong way so I had to come up with a more welcoming and inclusive rebuttal. 

I was healing my wounds by confronting the reality that they were actually there. For the longest time, I simply saw the wounds as necessary to get where I wanted. Just like I wanted my sandals to be comfortable, I wanted to do all the things that would make my faith comfortable and secure as well. 

But the longer you where something that’s harming you, the longer it will take for you to recognize the damage of your wounds. And, in turn, the longer it will take for those wounds to heal.

So after my girlfriend urged me to take a break from the Rainbows for a bit, I tried them back on.

And they fit perfectly. 

But first I walked away for awhile. 

I left the faith that I knew. I created something different. Something more open. Something that was inclusive and loving and saw God's handiwork everywhere and as an active and alive insistence. I created something that was uniquely mine. Where God was no longer an existent being looking to give his little minions brownie points, but an insistent presence pulsating out of all things.

But the only way that I was able to do that was by first recognizing the damage of my wounds. Giving them empty and new space to heal. And, in due time, confronting that which was once damaging, and recreating it into something that is built uniquely for me.

The Rainbows fit now. Perfectly. Every morning when I put them on, I feel so free and comfortable when I walk around.

This new version of spirituality I have works. I can be comfortable with what I believe. I don’t have to feel the need to demean differences. Instead, I happily embrace them. 

And this is all because I took the time to recognize something that was damaging. Or rather let other factors of my life point that out for me. I had to let the damaged facets of my life heal. And then I had to have the courage to come back and try it out again. Only this time, entering into something different. 

Rainbows that perfectly fit my foot. 

Spirituality that perfectly fit my true self.

I think we all have Rainbows in our lives that aren’t broken in. Things we are counting on to give us joy and satisfaction that we are putting so much hope in without seeing the damage they may actually be causing. 

I think its incredibly important to ponder and recognize what those things are. And perhaps, walk away from them for awhile so we can come back and have them truly fit to the true version of ourselves.


Rewriting Faith: How a Pastor Came to See Things Anew

Rewriting Faith: How a Pastor Came to See Things Anew

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