For the last two years I’ve taken a month-long road trip in the autumn, living out of my truck, sleeping in the bed on a wood platform under a topper, changing in parking lots, setting up and tearing down, cooking outdoors (weather permitting), staying the night in gorgeous isolated forests or in not so beautiful parking lots, all rain or shine. Living in my spacious rented room is surely easier and more comfortable, but there are vivid, beautiful, gritty, peaceful moments I would never experience except outdoors, in the elements, within the wild.
The question I keep asking: For those of us who leave familiar faith, what does it look like from here on out—to move from indoors to the outdoors? Do we gather, those of us on the fringes, and band together in our unknowing? Do we approach the void together, face it, stare into it, hold hands as we gather around it, building a community upon our unknowing? It can be dangerous, stepping too near the void; we fear of falling in. But where else can we go? “Where else can I go? You hold the words of eternal life.” These words haven’t left me. Perhaps we find Jesus standing with us around this black abyss. God is hidden in darkness. Often we want to see and know and understand and define, we want clarity and assurance and security and predictability. Some are content to stay there, indoors. But what about the rest of us? Is there no home for we who want to take baby steps toward unknowing, trusting and hoping that maybe we’ll find more of God outdoors in the raw darkness than in superficial light?
And so I wonder how much our truth and knowledge and understanding and theology have been merely indoor superficial light—comforting to a point, but unnatural and manmade. Infants raised in labs, grown under glaring fluorescent bulbs, never experiencing the raw, natural discomfort of blazing sun and the fear of its absence. Never venturing outside, subjects in controlled environments, not knowing or unwilling to walk through a door that leads to the wildness of the outdoors—a dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrolled experience that tests the simple, easy indoor faith (true as it may be). The hard questions of evil, sin, pain, suffering, death, (in)justice, heaven, hell, God, among all others, are not answerable here in the wild outdoors. They can only be experienced, lived out subjectively from within, not examined safely from without and defined in objective observation, as through a microscope. Hard questions and faith itself are entered from within, experienced in their reality, not examined indoors from afar, enclosed in glass cases as in an experiment. They are the chaos of thunder and lightning, the hurricanes and tornadoes, the wind and rain, the trees and seas, the death and destruction, the excitement and victory, of our experience in the spiritual (perhaps even physical) outdoors.
My faith was developed mostly in a lab. It grew under fluorescent light. It’s in leaving the safety of controlled environments when the sense of tension and danger and discomfort, the experience of excitement and searching and discovery, arises. It hurts the eyes when faced with the uncontrolled light of the sun for the first time; it produces fear when for the first time one lies awake and terrified through a lightless night.
Perhaps this is the source of the disconcertment some of us experience on our spiritual journey—the movement from a predictable indoor faith to an unpredictable outdoor one.