I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

In my earliest days as a beginning theologian, I understood well my conservative upbringing. I knew intimately the points and counterpoints of some pretty intense theological debates.

I was well versed in the different papers and publications put out by the differing and dueling editor-bishops. I knew what schools held to what doctrinal positions. I understood what would happen if I aligned myself to this camp or another.

There were theological giants walking among us and I was quite eager to hear everything they said.

For years I thrived in that atmosphere. I was a living sponge soaking up those doctrinal differences and arguments—reveling in my knowledge, honing my own ability to dissect, discourse, and write.

A large portion of my life involved doctrine, doctrinal analysis, debates, discussions, and like the proverb says, iron sharpening iron.

The little dictionary capability that resides within my word processor defines lockstep like this:

  • a way of marching with each person as close as possible to the one in front. 
  • close adherence to and emulation of another’s actions.

Yes, I was good at maintaining the right positions and attitudes—I could march and fit in—and I did.

I did at least until a pesky thing called ministry got in the way.

Ministry or the art of ministering into the lives of others was where I found myself more times than not. I could only retreat into my study and the scholarship of which I love for so long before real life had to be challenged.

Ministry meant interacting in the messy lives of others—and confronting my own messiness in the process.

Along the way, a funny thing happened (here’s where I probably lose the next preaching job or opportunity). As I became intimately involved with the lives of hurting broken people—as I came alongside them with the brokenness and hurt of my own life, I found it harder and harder to maintain some of my positions.

Sometimes it was because my positions didn’t hold water in the practicality of living out my faith—at other times, I realized that in the grip of pain and struggle, I couldn’t often afford the luxury of smug self-assurance.

At this point in my life, I have apparently lost the ability to march in lockstep. Or maybe you might consider me a round peg in a square hole.

And it’s not that I am advocating for you to rethink your arguments or positions. I am not all that worried about knowing whose theology is more accurate, yours or mine.

But here’s the rub: things that were once so important have lost their impetus.

I have come to believe that in the context of theology—and in the context of how we live our lives, a lot of doctrine and theology—bad, misguided, or completely correct—is overshadowed by the two greatest commands: Love God & Love Others.

I desperately want to have a ministry again one day. But in the trauma and heartache of my life, I have come to realize that nothing matters more than how I love God by loving others.

Living out that ideology might just be the biggest and best ministry any of us can have.

Yes, I am not sure where I fit into the theological world today… and yes, I respect your beliefs and opinions. But…

I choose to remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

24 thoughts on “I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

  1. I am moved by most of your writing, Les. I especially like this one. Thanks for making your heart so transparent. You truly are involved in a ministry, whether you realize it or not!

  2. Love this, Les. You’ve described a lot of how I’m feeling right now. I have no idea where I fit in church-wise right now. I get the feeling that I’m too radical for even a moderate church of Christ, and I’m definitely way too conservative for the Disciples. And, like you, Love for God and others trumps the rest of what I thought I knew so securely. Richard Beck’s Unclean really changed a lot of things for me, especially in taking “I desire compassion, not sacrifice” and seeing where I need to put that into my life.

    The only thing I can figure to do right now, is just hang out where I am and try to love people to the best of my ability. Maybe if I can start doing better at that, I’ll figure something out.

    Thanks again for your openness and honesty in these pages, Les. You do my heart a world of good.

    Eric

  3. We are where you are as well………..such a different place to be in than what we have been used to our entire lives. You said it well.

  4. Oh Les, you have echoed my thoughts and progressions from rejecting similar Iteachings and backgrounds. I was a fourth generation legacy of these teachings. This has been a process of becoming unshackled from dogma, debates and posturing to progressing into a totally new concept of gratitude, humility and delight in serving an awesome God.

    The journey has been lonely and required courage in the presence of derision and harsh criticism. That part was not easy! Prayer and devotion have brought me to greater understanding of my role here on earth and a great peace about the hereafter.

    You will get there! We will all be encouraged by your journey! Your writing is both poignant and inspiring. Thank you, Les!

    • “This has been a process of becoming unshackled from dogma, debates and posturing to progressing into a totally new concept of gratitude, humility and delight in serving an awesome God.”

      Beverly, this comment is what makes the internet a wonderful thing. After two and a half years of grief, addiction recovery, and faith searching, I’ve realized that I expended way too much effort trying to please the supposed leaders of my congregation by staying, as Les says, in lockstep with them. Because of this I paid a price in family relationships and spiritual growth. I now look at others who try to maintain that same kind of lockstep without even realizing it and struggle with what love I can show or words I can say to help. Then, of course, I realize I still struggle with the lockstep. I walked it for far too long. I take comfort in knowing that God is good and His love for me will overcome.

      Thanks, Les for reminding us, and thanks, Beverly for expanding on the thought.

  5. Distance too far but consider your neck hugged by someone that feels the same way. As someone that not only survived but thrived in a rule driven environment I’ve never felt God closer than in current grace relationship. But at the same time I continually ask what’s the next chapter of my life service wise? You wrote my thoughts. I love you brother.

  6. Les, I have been down that same “lockstepped” road during the course of my many years of struggle in the Kingdom. As you well said, ministering to others, dealing with the real life in business daily, and living with both the controllable and uncontrollable circumstances of my own life have brought me now to the question of fitting in. My hope and prayer is now that God’s mercy and grace to me and all my fellow man will be greater in the end than my once iron fisted dogma.

  7. I have been subscribed to your emails for awhile now. I am so moved by things you have written. This one is definitely on the mark. Thanks so much for putting into words what I have also grown to believe. I do know the feeling “where do I fit in?”

  8. Great words Les! I sometimes wonder how much real life experiences some theologians really have. Thankfully ministers/pastors like yourself are able to sift out the proverbial meat from the bones using love.

  9. You been reading my mail, by any chance?!! One of my favourite passages, and one that I struggle to achieve high grades on! The stuff I know in my head just doesn’t get to the same page as the heart.
    But you need not fear – you are already involved in a Ministry – just read the posts above and after each post you make 🙂

  10. I’m catching up on some blogs–trying to get my head above water! You struck a chord with this one. You’re not alone. Ministry is messy. There’s no question about it. Love your heart! Keep doing what you’re doing.

  11. Amen, brother!! After serving on the mission field and especially in several third world countries over the last 4 years in Asia…this rings ever truer for me. The petty things people choose to argue and fuss over are just meaningless to me when I see a world in need of God’s love. He has given us the task to be His hands & feet to a big world where there are too many who still do not know Him!! Thanks for sharing and many blessings~

  12. Pingback: Les Ferguson, Jr.: Desperately Wanting to Believe Again | One In Jesus

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