“No Wonder the Door Won’t Open, Silly. I am Already Inside.” -Three things about being a misfit in communities of grace that I keep having to re-learn.

Clearly I write from a position of someone who sits near the exit.  I love church, but sometimes I find it exhausting. I love my weirdo burner friends, and sometimes they can be a little harsh on my faith.   I long to be in Christian community, yet, depending on the community, I find myself itching to get out. I am finding that there are hidden moments of grace ready for the taking in all kinds of communities. And when I am willing to exercise a little humility and receive it, I find that that grace goes further than the edges of my life, and often finds its way into the open wild.

1).  No wonder the door won’t open.  I am already inside. 

I belong here, even if others scowl, which it can be disappointing to find out they do.  In fact, everyone who steps through the doors is in the same situation.  We are faulty. Let’s all join the club.   Others might find it easier to put on a front.  None of us will be able to keep up appearances if we are really seeking God.   If we are not, well, that has a way of working itself out sometimes, too.     If I don’t always fit the exact culture of the community I am walking into, then I know what it is to need grace.   I know it enough to love whatever part of you that is trying. I am trying, too.

2) I push too hard on the ‘pull’ handle 

I spend so much of my time distinguishing myself from others, especially if I don’t want to be like them, that I find it is not other really people’s judgment of me that is keeping me at the margins.  It is mine.  It is easy to forge an identity by announcing to other people who I am – and who I am not like. We tell people, I am Blue not Red. I go to tea parties, and I do not occupy. Well, that may be good to know, but I still haven’t really told anyone much about who I am. I, like everyone, have a story long before my state has a color.  I work so hard at telling people to love me as I am, I forget how to love them as they are.

It is an enemy of grace for me to try to defend myself.   When I act defensive I am just telling others that I have something to prove, and they need to change before I do.  The very nature of grace is that I don’t have anything to prove first.  None of us do.   None of us can.

Approaching others on the defensive may feel safe, but it’s no different than trying to feel safe by keeping up appearances.  It is “safe” in the same way as mocking other people’s convictions I do not like. That kind of “safe” rarely gets things done.

3) Who said anything about a door? 

Once again, my imagination is too small.  This is true not only for how I view myself, but also true of how I see others and their ability to grow and learn. There is love where I can not see it, grace where I have not looked.   Sometimes in shocking places.

I tend to have the greatest impact on people’s lives when I am willing to commit and love people who are not very excited about loving each other.   There is my band of atheists, hippies and wack-a-doodle art mongers.  And there is my Bible-reading, habit-wearing, prayer-meetin’ p0t-luck experts who are sometimes genuinely afraid of my other friends.  It is much less what I do, than whose hands I am holding that will be my legacy.

At the end of the day, I don’t get to choose whom I love.    As a follower of someone willing to become human, even though it meant people would kill him, I do not get to choose. God will have the final say.

Maybe the impossible just takes a little while.



One of my dearest friends has parents that, in theory, would never approve of my life, my struggles, and my choices. They know it and I know it.   Nevertheless, when they come to town they seek me out, and I am eager to see them  They have bought me dinner (in my book always a sign of love), shared intimately their spiritual lives with me, and simply called me friend.  It is a friendship that moves me deeply because even for us just to be willing to be together, is an act of forgiveness…an impossible forgiveness. 

Related Stories:

Eat at Joe’s: A beautiful story of what happens when a band of misfits and atheists get their hands on the feast of St Joseph

 Saint Benedict Goes to Burning Man

Misfits, Swans, Fear, and Desire


  • Doug Harrison

    AH! How truly great to meet you. I have been going to Burning Flipside for 8 years next month (Austin) , and several others and once to the thing in the desert. It seems like lately I have made these kinds of connections. Well, I am glad you found me. The burner culture shows up in several posts as well as my experience in the L’Arche communities.

    Hopefull we will one day meet Amber, till then your input here is very very much welcomed. YAY!

  • Andrew

    Seriously enjoy your posts. Thank you for walking that line and reminding me to keep my heart open today. My goal for the day is to not enter any conversation from the defensive.

  • Doug Harrison

    Well, Thanks for reading. I am glad you get something from it. I, obviously, have to keep re-learning these lessons. It is good to have other learners along with me.

  • Doug Harrison

    That is a beautiful phrase. It is so repeptitive in the New testament in particular that whole “Lose yourself,” “Take up your Cross,” I am alive in Christ,” That just makes life dangerous. It is also why I find it so baffling why so many self proclaimed Christians are so incredibly afraid if one law goes this way or that when it doesn’t even connect to them.

    The Gospels freak me out. I am still in, but I know this gets tricky and that no one gets out alive.

    May God give us courage adn faith. …and of course, love.

    Thanks for posting. It takes me even deeper.

  • layne

    I found myself boggled by burners when I was first exposed to them. I didn’t understand (and had a hard time accepting) that level of grace outside of the church. Being nice and loving to each other for the sake …being nice and loving to each other? There weren’t any, “We love you b/c Jesus would want us to love you, despite your faults and weirdness” or tossing around of christianese caveats like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. It brought me to my knees, and I mean that; I was in total awe and felt like a stranger to grace, even though I’ve spent so much time and energy trying to understand it throughout my life.

    That was a tad off-topic… before I met “burners” and while I was in the tail-end period of my time within the extreme evangelical church, I spent a lot of time justifying and defending myself/my friends on both sides of the fence. To my GLBT/non-christian/athiest/what-have-yous, I spent hours discussing and debating my choises. To the christians, I spent hours discussing and debating my friend’s choices. It was exhausting. I think, at some point, I must have finally just given up and began splitting my life into two worlds which looked very different from each other. This was also exhausting. I finally had to drop both “sides” and walk away, which is one of the (many) reasons why I am hesitant to join anything, ever. Dip my little toes into the water, but stay away from the actual commitments.

    Anway…thanks for writing this and letting me ramble/comment (which I find is a useful tool to understanding myself a little bit better).

  • Doug Harrison

    I write to understand myself also. I hope that mode of listening is a gift to others as well, as is your post. I think one of the hopes of a conversation like I am trying to start here is that we all have to begin where are are, not where we wish, or someone tells me I need to be. I hope I don’t stay here. I need to grow, but I never grow if I don’t begin in honesty.

    One of the main reasons I fear starting with honestly is that I can’t trust God, myslef, or others to handle it. Well, at soepoint I am just exhausted and have to go back to starting where I am, in honesty. ‘

    That is something I happen to know of you, which is why our friendship is as important to me as it is.