Welcome to Groves and Game Trails. You might have ended up here accidentally, so before telling you what this site is about, I need to tell you what it’s not about. This is not a site dedicated to hunting or video game trailers, and it is not, nor will it ever be, a site devoted to tailgating at Ole Miss (though it has merited its own site). You will find no taxidermied animals, any kind of excitement about the next Halo installment, or pictures of drunken bow-tie-wearing-20-year-olds.
This blog is instead dedicated to the exploration of the groves and game trails that make up the more interesting areas of Christian theology and the church. So, what’s up with “groves” and “game trails”? Why not call this BrandonsTheoBlog or wittytheologyreference.wordpress.com? It’s been several years since I first encountered Scott Cairns’ poem Return Directive in a PhD seminar. It piqued my interest then and images from the poem keep coming to mind both in my own ministry as a pastor and as I read more and more about the shifts, crises and possibilities in American Christianity today.
The road there – if you take the road and not
the shorter, crude diagonal that cuts
across a ruined and trampled pastureland –
is nearly winding as a spiral stair.
Wind there neither flags nor any longer
rages as a fabled wind might have done;
the winding road grants progressive, hidden
groves where you might find sitting still
a profitable diversion from what
journey you thought to take, and each of these
may disclose a path or two – game trails,
but I think more than game might find some use
in taking one. Such a path I’m guessing
may never bring you back, but will demand
another turn, in turn, another choice,
and you will choose and walk, choose and pause.
If lost at all you’re lost to those behind you;
to what’s ahead you’re a kind of imminence.
Besides, whatever loss or gain the others
measure, you will know what line you travel
and, if you live and move, how far, how well you fare.
Cairns’ suggestion to take the game trails seems more-so like an imperative for us today. That trampled pastureland offers three real temptations. First, The temptation to cut corners (quite literally) is very real not only for pastors and theologians, but all of us mired in the trappings of an “immediate gratification” world. Second is the temptation not to pause and let the world continue as we think about our next step. Third, the calm, flat, wide-open pasture that has already been traversed by multitudes would most certainly be the easiest way to get to our destination. But on that flat land, there’s no new scenery, no gusts of air, no intentionality in our choices and no sense of journey that, as the scriptures show us, are nonnegotiable in the Christian life. The challenges posed to pastors and churches today require new scenery, clean air and a desire for exploration. Most importantly, it requires the courage to go down an unfamiliar trail made by an unknown creature (that, frankly, may intend us harm) that leads to an undisclosed location.
This blog, then, is dedicated to exploring those groves and game game trails that challenge and restore us as individuals and as the church. Maybe I should have gone the Ole-Miss-tailgating-route, but, and this is the beauty of this journey, we won’t know until we’re too deep into those trails to turn around. So, let’s go.