Recently I’ve been reading from a book by Cynthia Lindner titled Varieties of Gifts: Multiplicity and the Well-Lived Pastoral Life. She teaches at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It’s a book about pastoral ministry, but much of it applies to anyone attempting adulthood.
One of the ideas I’ve found helpful is this: “Lively, functioning adult selves are always emerging from whatever sense of identity we’ve achieved” (p. 96). Rather than a solid and continuous form of identity as the crowning achievement of adulthood – I’m a business person, I’m a mother, I’m a home owner, I’m a Christian – Lindner suggests that we are always “moving back and forth between who we know ourselves to be and who we might yet become, between received tradition and new insight, between traditional practices and adaptive ones.”
This is healthy adulthood, and comes with risks. It can be easier to cling to a solid sense of who we are and what the world is. But it doesn’t work. Reality bumps up against whatever shelters we’ve built and not-so-gently demands we “emerge from whatever sense of identity we’ve achieved.” It’s an emergence into the unknown, toward God.
I was reminded of this at lunch on Sunday, eating with people considering membership at CMC. We were talking about the Membership Commitment – what we can affirm in it, and what questions it raises. Although they didn’t word it quite this way, a number of people were wondering if we’re asking them to commit to a solid (and narrow) sense of Christian identity, or if this is a congregation where they will be welcomed to keep emerging, to keep asking questions, and discovering Love’s reach, within the context of Christian community.
My sense of CMC is that we aspire toward the latter.