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Jun 24, 2008

Into the Wild

When I left the institutional church, I wasn't bitter or hurt. We had our share of letdowns and painful events while there, but our leaving had nothing to do with that. I had merely come to a point in my life where I was so sick and tired of that particular system, I never wanted to go back.

After being away for about six months, I started to see how deeply it had affected me. I felt like a tiger born in captivity, growing up in a zoo and one day tigersomeone left the cage door open. I walked through it innocently and unknowingly. Once I was out of the cage and into the wild, I began to discover that, for my entire life, I hadn't been a tiger. I was just a stuffed animal on the shelf. It wasn't until I was in the wild that I found the true meaning of "Tiger." In my freedom, I learned that the very essence of who I was created to be had been stolen from me by the institution.

I think we spend a lot of time trying to make "church" better and more tolerable. Every year there are more and more conferences around the world presenting new and improved ways to "do Church." It reminds me of zoo-keepers who decorate the tiger's cage to look as much like the tigers' natural habitat as possible. Thick trees, a pond, grass and a cave for privacy, are all lovingly placed around the pit so the tiger won't know the difference. The one ingredient, however, that cannot be given to the tiger is freedom. Sadly, this is what makes him a tiger. You can't cage something that was intended to be wild. When you do, the TIGER inside the tiger dies and all you have is a lazy stuffed animal with matted fur and a hollow, far-away look in its eyes.

In the wild, a herd of zebras may stop to drink at a watering hole. If you're on an African safari and witness that, it's an amazing sight. That doesn't mean that by catching ten zebras, putting them in a chain-linked pen and placing a bucket of water in front of them, we can rightfully say to a group of tourists riding on a tram, "Oh look - a herd of zebras has stopped to drink from a watering hole." That's a lie! This is exactly what we do with what we call "church." We capture a group of Christians, put them in a pin and say, "Oh look - a bunch of Christians gathering for fellowship." It's a lie! What's sad is that we justify it by telling ourselves that we're not to forsake the gathering at the water hole. The very thing that would have happened naturally becomes scheduled, formulated, mapped-out andc dictated.

Christians who have the living love of God in their hearts will naturally connect with people and have relationship. They don't need to be monitored and dictated by a hierarchy. Things that happen naturally don't need any help or assistance from an outside source in order to make sure they continue in their natural course. Any form of assistance on the part of humans will inevitably kill the essence of a natural thing.

It's that "NATURAL" part that I want to get at. When I talk about living in the wild as a Christian, some people immediately associate that with some sort of vicious, drooling beast that lives alone in a cave and lashes out at everything crossing its path. Wild does not mean rabid. It's simply means free. Free to be what you will. Even a flower can be wild. I cannot stress the importance of this in the life of a Christian. Institutionalism has done everything to insure that this freedom is never realized in the heart of one single Christian.

For religion to work and sustain itself, that wild essence must be strangled because the heart in which it dwells will naturally demand freedom. Know this: Until a Christian is free from organized and planned religion, he or she will never really know what it means to be a Christian. They'll just sit in their pews week after week, like stuffed humans with matted fur and a hollow, far-away look in their eyes. Many will not even know that they're missing anything. They'll drink when they're told and they'll eat and fellowship upon command without having the slightest idea what true Christianity is all about. This caging of the natural is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing of all.

Sometimes I feel like the tiger who escaped captivity and tasted freedom for the first time. Now I'm back at the zoo trying to convince the other tigers to leave with me. The problem is that the tiger in them is comatose, so they neither have the will nor the desire to experience the wild. They're not even sure I'm telling the truth and everything within them suspects that I'm not. They are slothfully satisfied in their captivity. The thought of having to hunt for their own food sounds too much like work. They wouldn't even know where to begin. The zoo has made life easy for them. Why leave? The zoo has convinced them that their cage IS the wild.

It reminds me of the slave days. Certainly there were loving slave owners who treated their slaves well. They didn't beat them or over-work them. They provided them with comfortable living quarters, clothing and good food to eat. They may have even treated their slaves with respect and dignity and allowed them to live with their families and have a day or two off each week. The problem, however, is due to the set-up itself. Irrespective of how these men and women were being treated, they were still slaves. They may have been loved and cared for, but they were not free. No amount of care andslave favorable treatment could wash away the fact that thousands of people with thousands of dreams were forced to pick cotton for someone else. When the slaves gained their freedom, many of them stayed right where they were. In their minds, they had a good thing going. They liked their "master" and they had grown accustomed to life as a slave. Sadly, their hearts were convinced that they were born to pick cotton. The institution of slavery attacked their essence.

Not until you gain your freedom, will you recognize what you really want to do in your life. sThere are many Christians who have settled for picking cotton when they were created for something much more beautiful and fulfilling. Captivity steals your essence. It separates you from it, and over time, you forget it was ever a part of you. The only way to survive as a slave is to shut down your inner dreams and desires and go with the flow of what's happening on the outside. Over time, you begin to believe that your captivity IS your calling. All of your hopes and dreams conform to the confines of the cage. Your eyes no longer see past the bars in the windows. Once that happens, you can pretty much kiss your wild essence goodbye.

Being released into the wild after a lifetime of captivity is both exciting and terrifying. I have many people come to me, petrified by the road before them, after walking through the open doors of religion's cage. They fear that they don't know enough to survive in the wild. They want to learn as much as they can about living in the wild so they won't fall flat on their face. More than anything, I find that people don't trust their hearts to carry and lead them. They want a teaching, a map, or a list of directions because they've never listened to their own heart and followed their dreams. When trouble or loneliness comes, they are tempted to run back to the cage and mindlessly follow the instructions of the institutional system. I understand this feeling and everything in me wants to reach out andbrooks help people in this phase of life.

There is nothing to learn about living in the wild. It's not a matter of learning, but of unlearning. When a wild animal has been raised in captivity and is being prepped to be reintroduced into the wild, that animal is not being taught; he's being un-taught. Sometimes the only way to un-teach an animal that has learned to rely on captivity is to give them nothing at all. So many free believers run the risk of becoming like the bears at Yellowstone Park used to be. They're free and wild, but they feed themselves by going to the visitor's center and eating scraps from tourists. That is not wild living. There's a point in every Christian's life when they have to just trust that they are a Christian.

I hear sincere-hearted people nervously talking about how they can best "walk out" the Free Believer message and a part of me wants to grab them and shake them. Bears don't "walk out" being a bear. Tigers don't "walk out" being a tiger. They just are. It's not a question of what to do! It's a question of who you are. Settling in and trusting what you are is what it's all about. This is the first step to discovering the voice of your heart and being in tune to your spirit's cry and purpose. So many believers begin to doubt themselves and they lose confidence in their ability to really, truly know what exists within. maskI can't tell you how many times I've heard this. Some people have even become panic-stricken because they don't feel like they have a clue where to start in their effort to reclaim their heart's desires.

This has been voiced to me so many times that I am beginning to recognize an epidemic. The old way of thinking inside of me is begging to write a sermon series on how to do this. Unfortunately that would only perpetuate the problem and lengthen the healing process in people's lives. The problem is that the system of slavery we were raised in has caused us to be terrified of doing nothing. We've been led to believe that we must always be growing and moving forward in our lives. Even a hint of idleness is evidence that we're on the wrong path or not getting something. I would like to put that lie to rest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When a tiger that has been raised in captivity is released, there is one important skill to learn. He has to first learn to do NOTHING, and do it well. For most Christians, this sounds like heresy. It feels totally wrong because all we've ever been told is to produce, produce, produce. The moment we stop producing, we begin to feel guilty and condemned. We start getting a feeling that we're missing something and perhaps getting left behind the pack.nothing You have to put that out of your mind and allow yourself to be comfortable doing absolutely nothing. I believe that until a believer can accept this, they will never get in touch with themselves. In other words, don't sit around thinking about how you can grow. That's silly. Don't sit around pondering what you need to do in order to be a better Christian. Stop trying to be spiritually busy. Just do nothing. I promise that the rest will come on its own. I guarantee it.

We've been brain washed in so many ways, it amazes me at how many of us sit around worrying about things that happen totally on their own. Some of us are like a zebra that tries to have more stripes or a cheetah trying to add spots to her fur. Believe it or not, as a Christian, you don't have to worry about your purpose. Sadly, we've grown up in an institution that constantly produces books, sermons and study guides on how to find our purpose and live in it. Think about that for a moment. That's got to be the stupidest thing ever. If you have a purpose, it's because the One who created you, created you with a purpose. "Finding it" is NOT your job. It shouldn't even be a concern in your heart. Your purpose IS your stripes and your spots. It's just a silly thing to concern yourself with. Stop looking for it and worrying about it!

This generation of Christians worries about some of the most ridiculous things in the world. This is clear evidence of the amount of devastation that has been caused by organized religion. What generation before us ever had to worry about knowing themselves? Where in the Bible did anyone ever have to find themselves and know their own hearts? For that matter, when did anyone in Scripture search for their purpose? It didn't happen. selfUnfortunately, we've been deceived into believing that the very things that happen naturally on their own, must somehow be discovered and controlled by us. Poppycock!!!

Do you ever worry that you won't know if you're hungry or not? Do you sit around and worry whether or not you'll know your hand is being burned if you accidentally hold it over the stove? Do you fret about knowing if you're tired or not? Do you stress about whether or not you'll sneeze if something gets in your nose? This is how ridiculous we Christians sound when we start distressing over whether or not we'll know our purpose, or hear what our heart is telling us. We do this because the slave master of religion has forcefully hijacked the natural things in our lives and has taken control. The answer is not to "Learn them back" but to do NOTHING. When you're hungry, you'll know it. When you're tired, you'll be in tune to it. If you're uncomfortable, you'll know to switch to a different position. If something's funny, you'll laugh. If you have an itch, you'll know to scratch it. Don't waste time fretting about these things, because they happen naturally. When the Spirit of the Lord lives inside of you, you don't have to remind yourself to do the things that naturally occur in a Spirit-filled life.




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  1. Gravatar
    Eric Coleman

    This is exactly how I feel. Thank you for this.

  2. Gravatar

    Wow you say it all so well. I really was losing touch with who I really was, so bogged down with who I thought I "should" be, as per the instruction I had been receiving. But that got to be so smothering, and I knew I had to get out so I could just be "me". Now it is as though I am "born again" all over again! Praise God for His mercy.

  3. Gravatar
    David C. Linn

    Wow!! Thanks for that; We have been lulled to sleep and have become so comfortable in "serving" the "church" that we don't even know we are living in the zoo and not free. Wonderful stuff!!

  4. Gravatar

    WOW. I can relate on so many levels. You are a wild man! check out the movie with the same title of your blog you'll love it! (unless you already have)

  5. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Actually I saw the movie last night. I did love it.

  6. Gravatar
    Tracy Simmons

    Darin, I just wanted to say how powerful, beautiful, and wonderful this post is! I was formerly a "pastor" on staff at a local church, as was my husband. We both walked away from the institutional setting 11 years ago, knowing something was horribly wrong, but not sure what that something was. We've discovered it over time, of course! How helpful your post would have been back then when we were wandering around clueless! Maybe it's just as well; we had to learn it from the Lord ourselves. Anyway, I just wanted to say WELL DONE, SUPERB! I'm referring all my blog readers to your post.

  7. Gravatar
    Rich Simmons

    Darin,This is undoubtedly one of the most true-to-the-heart writings I've ever read. I smell a book coming out of this!:>}(hint,hint)I applaud you on the grace you displayed in referring to the zookeepers example and their earnest desire to provide for the tigers in the best manner that they knew how, while boldly declaring the logical inadequacy due to the failure of seeing the basic nature of the tiger. You have written a "must read" for both new believers and those, such as my wife Tracy and I, who have stumbled through both enlightening spiritual moments and the resistance and rejection of well meaning friends as we've sought to understand and walk in our true identity.
    Thanks for the help and confirmation in this posting.

  8. Gravatar
    Gladys Plaschke

    Thanks a lot! For me the battle has been going on for about 17 years. It is very reassuring to hear others feeling similarly. God Bless.

  9. Gravatar
    Katherine Gunn

    Hmm... I was a leader in the church I walked away from. I grew up with parents that were church leaders. All my life, something always felt a little off - often, I wrote it of to me being so messed up, but there were time (and they got more frequent) that I knew everyone else was missing something important, but I didn't know exactly what it was.... And in the year and a half since I left church, I have struggled with many of the things you talked about. Thank you - this helps remind me that I am doing fine. ;-)

  10. Gravatar
    Charlie Pugliese

    Get on the roof tops and shout it out: "Wake up!"
    Better yet go open the cages and drag the poor creatures out. There is life after church! For some who know what the "church" is. I love you Darin.

  11. Gravatar
    Mike Ege

    How cool to find a brother in this journey! I have found freedom outside the box like never before. In fact, in the process of doing nothing, I have managed to not read my Bible for some length of time now. How refreshing to actually apply what is already in my head rather than pile more into a mind that is overfilled and unapplied.

  12. Gravatar

    Exelent article, it's for freedom we have been set free(Gal 5:1).
    Thank you so much.

  13. Gravatar
    Janis Morris

    I was reading the lyrics to "Beautiful You" last week, and when I read the part about there being a purpose for me, God immediately gave me an illustration: when I buy a rubber stamp, I have a purpose for it. I don't bring it home, set it on the table, and say, "Okay, go find your purpose and do it." No, it sits there until I pick it up and use it for MY purpose. It doesn't jump out of my hand and run over and do something else, and it doesn't work away like crazy when I leave the room. It just sits there and lets me use it. Thanks so much for being there, Darin. Since I started reading your articles 2 weeks ago, I have shed 20 tons of garbage and 2 pounds.

  14. Gravatar

    I am really excited about this site. It's been a 6 year long battle of loneliness and torment because of the struggles the institution pressed upon me and my withdraw from them. I didn't know any one else understood my frustration. Now I see that you are not very far away. I have lots to share and look forward to it.

  15. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Joy, I'm so glad you found us. Feel free to comment anywhere you can. You also might check out the forum to meet other people who are on this path. There are some great folks there! ALSO, check out the "Into the Wild" podcast show. You can access it from the front page. I'd love to be friends with you. You can email me anytime at blessings.

  16. Gravatar

    Actually I can really relate to what you say about unlearning. I think I mentioned that in a comment somewhere. And I've only picked up my Bible once to find something I wanted to ask you about since finding this site. That is a big part of my unlearning - not to "search the scriptures whether these things are so" but to search my heart and actually find it is alive! I thought it died when I was about four.

  17. Gravatar
    Denise Kauke

    This really hit home with me! Excellent explanation of the unraveling I have been going through since I left the "zoo." The doing nothing part has been the hardest, since I had been very busy for many years doing all those "good" things for God in the IC. I have been devouring the articles and they have helped me tremendously during this withdraw period. I will never go back to where I was, I have tasted freedom and I am learning to love it more and more each day!!

  18. Gravatar
    Pat Oliver

    Many thanks for sharing this, it is so liberating.. Church in the past certainly has done a lot of damage, but God has set us free...

  19. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Denise how exciting. Please keep in touch with me. I'd love to hear your story. When you have time I would be honored if you'd email me personally. Blessings.

  20. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Thanks Pat.

  21. Gravatar
    DaRon Maughon

    AMAZING TRUTH!!!! Thank you, Darin!!!! I've just been "beautifully wrecked" again! Thank you, Jesus!!!


  22. Gravatar

    This is one of my favorite ariticles... you put it out at the perfect time Darin... Thanks a billion!

  23. Gravatar
    Amy S.

    I am totally one of those believers that is totally feeling like poo doing "nothing". Both my hub and I are fresh out of the organized church.. both worship leaders for 20+ years,on paid staff, yada yada. The whole "tiger" analogy gave me chills! I read the first paragraph and cried. One day not long ago, my sister called, and she had been praying specifically for my hubby. She said she was praying, and a picture dropped in her spirit. And no joke.. get this! She saw a cage.. and a tiger was in the cage. Then she saw the door open, and the tiger jumped out. This beautiful mighty was bewildered, and it started pacing back and forth outside of the cage..back and forth..totally not knowing what to do. And then she said, she heard a voice, it was the Father.. and it said,"Follow me"

  24. Gravatar
    Amy S.

    Anywho, all of that to say... Wow!
    I cannot wait for my honey to get home, and share this with him!! You are so dead on! All that you said about trying to "walk out" the wild well and right.It is so scary and so free at the same time. I think, like that tiger,we are free, but we don't know what in the world we are "supposed" to do. So we pace.. back and forth... back and forth... And honestly, if we are not careful, we will jump right back into that cage and shut the door behind us... lock and all! Kind of like the Israelites whining about going back to Egypt. They were in bondage, but hey, they had food! They knew what to "expect"! There is something so very solemnly scary about that. Like an abusive relationship..a women will go back to because, she knows what to expect even tho it hurts

  25. Gravatar
    Amy S.

    Fantastic article! Thankyou so very much for sharing that!!

  26. Gravatar
    Amy S.

    Shoot this is like my 4th comment... :)

    I walked away and almost forgot...

    Instead of the cage being in a zoo....

    The cage was a part of a circus ;)

    Ok, now I am for sure done! Kind of gives a snapshot of how God looks at the institutional church.

  27. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Amy go to the "Sermons" page and scroll through the sermons until you find the one called "Into the Wild." It's the very last sermon I preached as a pastor in the institutional church. I think you'll REALLY be inspired by it.

  28. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Amy you are SOOOO going to love the "Into the Wild" sermon. I think out of 15 years of preaching it is hands down the best sermon I've ever preached. Let me know that you got this because I REALLY want you to listen to that sermon:-)

  29. Gravatar
    Scott Livengood

    Very thought provoking read and liberating for sure. I currently am the pastor of a very non institutional "church" (and trying hard to keep it that way) Mostly we are an extended family who gets together to be together. the only caution i would give to some who make take this teaching to an unhealthy extreme is to not neglect God's word, for it is there for our good. When God speaks to us concerning our lives through it, we should obey what He is saying. Emphasis on "HE" and not the institutional echoes.
    Have fun serving Christ!!!!!

  30. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    His Word is now living inside of us. I really don't worry that much about people neglecting it as much as I used too. It's like the wild essence of a tiger. Even if you raise him in captivity and he never sees a day of freedom in his life; he's still wild at heart. That essence will always prevail in the end. I've learned to see the "Word" of God in us that way. It's alive inside of us.

  31. Gravatar
    Twin stars

    welcome to the path that leads to the worship heqd wilderness society there reflected on the peaks of the shinning moutains, where litlle mouse looks into the great still lake called Telastie where all the universe is perfectly reflected, lose your eyes little mice and see, stoop low and jump high! falling up.... breath in the dark as the golden arrows arched over the plains, the wings of the geat eagle beat a rythum, the stirring sound of the " Telling" from the eye of the eagle silent thunder awaking the ten granmothers seeking 7 thunders rain, like ( the bird of heaven sung by Iona) the great waterfall cascades into the still waters yet not a stir or a ripple over the precipice past and future fall tumbling. and youngmaen warriours with the sacared knife from granmother cut the sid

  32. Gravatar

    Darin, what I love about this blog is what struck me when you told me about how you felt about the movie, The Golden Compass. That is, that the IC/religion turns people into homogenized cogs with authenticity or identity...and what's worse is that we get 'em while their kids so that they're in nice tight spiritual bondage right from the beginning.

  33. Gravatar
    Amy Scroggs

    Got your note, and started listening last night... got goosebumps and cried. What a confirmation that we are right where God wants us to be. Wow!!!!
    Gonna listen to the rest tonite!! Thankyou for sending me the link to find it! So so refreshing and confirming!

  34. Gravatar
    Russell Macfarlane

    It seems this article is only understandable to those led by the Spirit. There was a time when I would have passed you off as some kind of a nut or worse. I guess we need a bit of the down side of captivity in order to truly appreciate freedom and Grace.

  35. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Brigit your past gave me goose bumps. You're right girlfriend.

  36. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Russell you're right about that, but I'm also a nut.

  37. Gravatar
    Belinda Dorsey

    Love this! Thank you!

  38. Gravatar

    woohoo, new to the wild...He's a good lion...

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