We’re very comfortable and even encouraged to tell tales of anger, disappointments, frustrations; even bitterness in generalizing or personal statements about religion or a
specific church. We even attempt to one up the preceding story told by a friend with our tale of woe. (“Oh, so you thought your story was sad, just listen to mine!”)
It is the unspoken permissions that bring out stories about that priest who said or did the wrong thing, the church situation that wasn’t to your liking, the promising church change that never happened, the songs you couldn’t include in your wedding, that unhappy nun in second grade, rules and regulations that are torn apart because either they didn’t suit you or you don’t understand; they are all dished out, laughed about or ridiculed while all the time providing us a personal catharsis to be both judge and jury. The conversation ends and you walk away feeling the same frustration that your storytelling about frustration was meant to eliminate.
That was a pretty blah and bland experience between friends over drinks and about this great gift of faith whose practice doesn’t always match its promise.
Bland is Milwaukee streets with these directions, “All right, you take North Avenue over to Center Street and continue on until 37 Street and it’ll be on the corner.” Wow, was that an exciting trip or what? Now ask for street directions in Palm Springs, CA. and you’ll hear, “All right, you take Bob Hope Drive until Dinah Shore Street, if you pass Gene Autry Trail you’ve gone too far so just head back slowly on Gerald Ford Drive.” (Ford wasn’t sure about his presidency either.) That’s the fun route to follow because it’s full of memories, past successes of famous people and an enjoyable journey toward your final destination.
Now back to the bar, drinks and the unsatisfying conclusions from the previous visit and change those church stories of isolated situations into faith stories full of surprises and joys, setbacks and recoveries, peaceful feelings and perhaps even a little ecstasy thrown in. We are so comfortable sharing church stories of woes which always stars us as the victims. What happens when the shared stories become ones of faith and transformation that features God as the star and us as the co-stars? (Co-starring can lead to bigger roles, by the way.)
When you arrive home after drinks with friends that night your feelings have now been revived, nourished and confirmed through sharing and reinforced in your mind and soul. You’ve now experienced the fun and joy of religion and the rest is thrown aside as much as the dullness of North Avenue is replaced with the exciting journey along Bob Hope Drive.