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Leaving the Baggage Claim

The arrow was pointing toward the suitcases and duffle bags, but when I saw it I imagined a spiritual sort of baggage claim where weary pilgrims collect the familiar packages and parcels we’ve carried so often.

I keep trying to walk past the baggage claim and out on the the sidewalk, but I have bad of habit of stopping to pick up my heavy suitcase from the familiar conveyor belt going around and around and around.


I was at a conference last weekend called Praxis, a gathering for pastors and writers and artists to talk about liturgy and tradition and religion and beauty.

Since I got back home on Sunday, I’ve been turning their words over and over in mind, around and around and around. They’ve given me a sliver of light, an arrow point away from the baggage claim, toward freedom and hope.


“So much of our life is spent reacting against what we don’t like
that we forget to embody what we long for.”

– Sarah Bessey

There’s this quote that I see on the internet every week, about how instead of bashing what we hate we should be promoting what we love. Another one says something about how Christians should be known for what we’re for rather than what we’re against.

Those quotes always frustrated me. I tried to give up bashing what I hate, but had a harder time figuring out exactly what it was that I loved. I felt bad for not knowing, but couldn’t simply conjure up a better future. No glowing arrow pointed away from the baggage claim toward the exit.

But what Sarah said wasn’t frustrating. She wasn’t just talking about “promoting what we love”. Her words came from a deeper place. Not a simple switch from bashing to promoting, but learning to embody. That doesn’t just make me feel guilty, like those other quotes do. It gives me hope.


“I reached the point where I just couldn’t drink that water and call it wine.”
-Brian Zahnd

Deep spiritual longing was a common theme at Praxis. Something that drove Christians from a broad spectrum of traditions to seek something more satisfying. Articulating these thoughts together in one space, we were realizing that they were not alone in that longing.

Perhaps reacting against what we hate precedes embracing that which we will love. Perhaps articulating dissatisfaction is the first step on a pilgrimage.  You won’t look for wine as long as you’re still satisfied with water.


“I had been a Christian my whole live and had never heard about the Kingdom.”
-Aaron Niequist

So many at Praxis put into words the same restless searching I’ve known the past few years. It was refreshing to hear from those who had walked the path I am on, to hear of their disillusionment and longing and their searching for something more. Sometimes I get discouraged with the slowness of it all. I should have arrived by now. I should have outgrown being a religious asshole. I should no longer be waiting for permission.

At Praxis, I saw other people who had wrestled with those same questions, but hadn’t gotten stuck. They found a way forward. They found a way through. Listening to them, I was given a vision of spirituality beyond deconstruction.


“Where have you come from? Where are you going?
How is that causing you to live today?”
-Blaine Hogan

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a friend: “I can’t help but desire for you not simply to conquer your past, but to explore your future. It seems (if I may be so bold) that much of your writing seems to be taking swings at your past rather than telling us about the here and now.”

He was right, but I didn’t know what to tell him.

At Praxis, I found hope for the here and now. I saw what it looks like when Christians leave the baggage and embody the spirituality they have longed for.

It turns out that the way forward might actually be backwards. It might be a call to return to the early embodiment of the faith: Eucharist, sacraments, liturgy, formation in community.

I still have these thoughts in my mind, turning around and around and around. But I’m starting to see an arrow pointing away from the baggage, and I want to follow it.

more from #Praxis14:

Assorted Reflections from #Praxis14
by Andrew Arndt

The Liturgy of the Rock Concert
by Stephen Proctor

Water into Wine
by Brian Zahnd

Praxis[ ]

[ image: basheertome ]

published June 11, 2014

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