It was at EastLake that it first dawned on me that church might not be there to serve me, make me comfortable, help me feel forgiven and complete, and cater to my service preferences. I previously was under the comical misdirection that if I didn't like certain things or people within a church perhaps that was a sign that it "wasn't the place for me." I had a list of expectations that EastLake did not meet for me, but two main points bothered the hell outta me: Why didn't we celebrate the Eucharist, and why couldn't I bring my children into the main teaching area with us? Obviously, these things were not make or break issues for me and we continued participating long enough to see the Eucharist return (thanks be to God), and to realize that what I value about EastLake teachings become incorporated into the way that I lived, but I had a hard time imagining a context where adults could be frank about the painful things of this world, the hard, hard things that we are all wrestling with on some level, and do so in a way that would be appropriate for my 4, 5, and 7 year olds. I realized that my desire came from this archaic notion that my 4 children should be able to sit with me, for an hour, politely and serenely, and if they were not able to do this then I was somehow failing at parenting. I even went to so far as to begin attending a church in Mercer Island just to offer this torture of an experience to my darling children. Thank you EastLake for setting me afloat on this stream that splashes me in the face when I let my ego dictate too many of my life choices, particularly when I start crutching up my self-worth upon the tiny vessels of my children. God, parenting's hard.
EastLake is a value because we have rooted and blossomed in our sense of selves, in our marriage, in our connection to the world and to our fellow peoples, largely because of the direction that EastLake has pointed us in. We for sure picked up the baton and ran with it, but by God, it's been a good run, and we'll keep on keeping on as long as this place exists. I outgrew, rather quickly the idea that church should be super comfortable for me (it's not, it's actually really painful a lot of the time, but I've grown to enjoy the pain of stretching because I like the new things I can see from that vantage). As my kids got older and were capable of participating in household jobs and caring for themselves we taught them that "they're never too young for a job." Participating in the things that happen in the household is part of what being in our family means. It's not punishment, and interestingly, they do often take great pride in their capabilities because of this. Similarly, I began to see that serving at EastLake on different teams made me feel proud, like part of the family. I didn't feel like I was making a great sacrifice, or like I should somehow be recognized for my efforts, I just felt proud to be a part, and I felt connected. And, the more I felt connected, the more I wanted to participate, the more I enjoyed showing up, the more I enjoyed all the familiar faces.
Onto the money. The message “Stop Tithing to the Angry God” was TRANSFORMATIVE! Seriously, the ongoing guilt-to-debt-to-sacrifice calculations on my likelihood of having made the correct downpayment into heaven was exhausting. I did enjoy the auto pay option EastLake offered from the get-go, though. :) . It took the pain out of writing the check (remember those?) and eased my salvation calculating significantly. However, I was still troubled when we received an unusual bonus or when I began working less. Should I make an adjustment? God knows that we have extra money, so probably. Or, we can live "sacrificially," no need to make an adjustment (and let's be honest, sacrificially meant nothing more than more intentionally. No one is making hearty sacrifices in my family regarding finances when you step back and get a little perspective!). “Stop Tithing to the Angry God” stopped all that nonsensical, anxious to and fro. We didn't adjust our giving, although we do sometimes consider a house remodel and it is tempting. ;) What was glorious is that I felt glad about giving the money! It's virtually impossible to put a price tag on a healthier sense of self, or an awakening to personal healing, to kindness, to forgiveness, to generosity and compassion, to integration and freedom to play and celebrate, or the invitation to observe, to see beauty, to know truth and to trust the goodness in myself and others. These are all things I have awoken to at EastLake over the last 7 plus years. In that respect, I suppose that we do come out ahead, if we're speaking in terms of measures and value.
-Ben and Amanda
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