At the seminary, I recall a very conscientious effort to help wives of students develop a sense of community and mutual support. It seemed like a good idea, since we were all in the same oddly-shaped boat. It didn’t work out too well for me, though. I felt always on the outside – not German enough, not pious enough, not sweet enough, not “Lutheran” enough – to fit in. I grew up in another denomination and would still be there, I suppose, except that I love a Lutheran man whom God has called to be a pastor. During those first few years I struggled just to understand and accept the Lutheran interpretation of baptism and communion and to figure out how to use the hymnal.
As the years go on, it is a happy surprise for me that the core of Lutheran doctrine is so liberating, so clear about the nature of my relationship to God in Christ. The more I understand the freer I feel to depend on and grow in relationship with Him.
I still feel like I’m on the outside. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod seems to have a particular culture and I do not feel like a part of it. When I wind up in groups where everyone else has two degrees of separation from every Lutheran who ever lived, I am lost. My uncle didn’t teach your cousin religion in high school; my grandpa wasn’t the pastor who officiated at your husband’s sister’s wedding.
I am stranded on a bridge: too Lutheran to be anything else, and too uncomfortable with the Lutheran cultural identity I’ve encountered to feel I belong inside of it.
Generally speaking, all of this is ok. Depressive episodes of self-doubt notwithstanding, I like myself. I do not, however, assume that other people will like my particular amalgamation of orthodox and non-traditional, reverent and irreverent, conservative and liberal.
The spiritually wise choice is to let this conflict nudge me deeper in God’s Word and an identity that rests solely on Christ. That sounds simple but it isn’t.