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How Celtic Christianity Salvaged My Crumbling Christian Faith

My "becoming a Christian" story is not unusual in Evangelical circles. I was 16 years old when my youth group took a trip to Denver--the big city closest to my small Nebraska town. We were there to attend a popular Evangelical youth conference complete with bands, speakers, and lots of corny Christian themed T-shirts. A vibrant and compelling speaker ended his speech with an "Alter Call"--an invitation to 'accept Jesus into your heart'. I responded to this one similarly to how I had responded to the few prior ones I had experienced at Christian punk rock shows. Yup, that was a thing. The big difference this time was that I was immediately surrounded by a few of my friends and mentors who congratulated me on making the biggest decision of my life. They welcomed me into the "Christian Household."

Looking back, those were some of the simplest and most incredible feeling days of my life. For the first time I felt as if I was a part of something bigger than myself. I very quickly became the ideal Christian youth. I spoke at youth events and was asked to be on a few "Ministry Teams" in my town. As I look back, I might describe those days similar to the way Paul described his Pharisee days. I was about as good a "Christian teenager" as you could find.

My friend Kathy Escobar would call this my "Fusing" experience. Everything made sense and no question would go unanswered. My fusing experience lasted for about 5 years. But eventually certain questions started breaking through my defenses in college and caused me to ask whether I really believed the things I said I did. I managed to convince myself that I did for another few years. Then I had my moment where it all came crumbling down. I was 26. My wife was pregnant with our first child. I took a shower and was struck by how "real" this shower tile was. I realized that it was infinitely more real than the God I had constructed in my head based on all the answers that had no questions.

After 24 hours of trying to convince myself that I was an Atheist, I gave in and admitted that I did still believe in God. But something was visibly different about what I was willing to say I believed. I had this image in my head of a large ship safely navigating the raging sea of questions. I felt as if God was inviting me to trust the questions and jump in. It felt unsafe. It felt uncertain. Many of those questions looked as if they had no certain answers. Still, I knew I needed to jump in and allow the waves to take me where they will--even if that means they take me away from Christianity.

For about 2 years prior to my "Shower Tile Experience", the chaplain for our staff, Father Scott Jenkins, had shared a few things from this relatively new (to me) spiritual stream called Celtic Christianity. I remembered feeling a sense of warmth when he would share his insight based on how the Celts would view this Scripture, or this season, or this life event. Remembering these things, I went to Scott and asked him if he had anything he could give me on Celtic Christianity. I told him that it felt like something I would like, but that I really didn't know much about it. He eagerly went inside his office and came back with his copy of "Christ of the Celts" by John Philip Newell.

As I read Newell's book, I felt as if God was gathering the pieces of my faith that had shattered in that shower. I felt as if God was telling me that some of those pieces would not fit anymore, but that I should hang on to the ones that do and allow Celtic Christianity to help construct a new container--one that might hold them with the tenderness their fragility called for in that moment. What I have experienced in the years since can on