I am the product of the Church. Born into its fold, reared by its attendees, married by its pastor, daughter of a pastor, wife of a youth pastor. It is time we stop pretending. Church hurts. Period.
Weekly, I attend church, well, with the exception of being sick two weeks ago and Anne visiting this past Sunday. My absence the last two weeks wasn't met with the aching gap of not attending. In fact, it was met with relief. Finally. A Sunday where I don't have to give.
Selfish? Perhaps. Real? I'm nothing if I'm not honest.
I have witnessed the many dark places in church, and I don't mean the janitor's closet. The lifelong members leaving because a new pastor threatens traditions. The bitter phone calls and name calling, the back biting, the gossip, and the jealousy. I've experienced family vacations interrupted because, well, who else is there to do it, if not us? The activities where the same steadfast souls bear the weight of the entire ministry, while others feed and leave full. I've born the weight of legalistic expectations, down to my barefoot performance during a youth concert in the hot throes of summer, to the "satanic" music of Michael W. Smith. I have seen my brothers let their sisters down. I have seen my sisters sin. I have sinned. I have been guilty of the above and more that shall remain unwritten below.
Church can steal the very breath from your body. Leave you without energy, in a desert, parched and thirsty. The joy unspeakable, love unstoppable theme can be a very, VERY distant reality. Confession: I have even stood on a Sunday morning, in worship, with my mouth closed, Facebooking, because ... church hurts, and I don't want to be there.
I have come to understand why a believer might choose to remain home on Sunday morning. Or to avoid church and its people. I understand why those on the outside look inside and brand us with "hypocrite", or "self-righteous prudes".
And yet, in the midst of humanity, comes the shimmering sparkle of Jesus. It twinkles in the eye of the five-year-old boy who extends his hand to my daughter and leads her into class so she is not alone. It shines in the shaking hand of the gentleman who prepares the vats of morning coffee without fanfare (though well he should receive it). It glows in the fervency of the worship pastor's song, even if I don't like the song, it still there. That supernatural realism that Jesus is... well, that Jesus is...
I believe that sometimes those outside the Church look in and wait for us to achieve success as redeemed Believers before they venture inside and wipe "Hypocrite" off our front sign.
I believe those inside the Church make the dreadful error that we should portray ourselves so much like Christ that we lose the message of our own humanity. Of the fact of our sinful error and of Jesus' grace. We try to be plastic Jesus's instead of the bandaged, the saved, the real.
I believe we let each other down. We strike out. We hurt each other. We assume all is well, when all is not. We ignore each other's pain. We're oblivious to the agony someone hides in the depths of their soul. We assume the most effervescent is happy and the most martyred is alone. When, sometimes, those who sing and shine and explode into ministry, ache deep in the depths of a soul that has dried into a withered patch of cracked ground.
We place ourselves in the position of Author and expect a fellow Church-ee to fulfill the role of Perfector. When in reality, Jesus, is the Author and the Perfector of our faith (Heb. 12.2) and we? We are broken vessels, patched, sealed, and being used while Jesus makes up the difference.
And in the lonely, busyness of Church, God is alive. He sends refreshment through the Church by sending a sister (Anne) to visit her parched and thirsty youth pastor's wife (me). To come alongside and lift me up and whisper, "all things work together for good to those who love Him". He provides healing in the form a Converse-clad youth who rises on her spring break to help lift the weary spirits of a tired mom and full time career woman and take the children so this hurting one can be refreshed. He vanquishes the dark places with Facebook messages of "you were missed" and pictures of coffee mugs and memes.
I am the product of the Church. Born into its fold, reared by its attendees, married by its pastor, daughter of a pastor, wife of a youth pastor. It is time we stop pretending. Church also heals. Period.
And separating ourselves from the family of Christ is ostracizing ourselves into a room in our house where we can minister only to ourselves and be ministered to only by ourselves. Where the lonely existence becomes all we know until our vision of the Church is bitter, or unnecessary, or simply not a priority.
Family Hurts. Of course it does. Because it is with family you are the safest, and the most real, but also the most vunerable. It is with family that your weaknesses are exposed and your strengths monopolized on. It is with family you are loved fiercely and hurt horribly. Where expectations are placed without reciprocation. Because family is a broken picture of God's future perfection. And yet, underneath all the pain, the betrayal, and the sin, we are tied by blood. We will always be family.
I believe it is time we stop expecting the Church to be the Disneyworld of Christianity. Even Mickey Mouse has a bad day and Cinderella loses her shoe on more than one occasion. The Church is filled with heroes and heroines, with the broken redeemed, and the suffering being healed. We should hold each other, both in understanding and accountability. And, while God's precepts never should be negated, His love should also never be forgotten.
Church isn't a place where we attend just to be filled. It is a place you should attend to give, as you would give to that one family member you're thinking of now who has been THAT PERSON to you. Loved you. Held you. Supported you. Refreshed you. Stop blaming the Church for hurting you. That's crazy. Of course, they hurt you! Name a family member in your life who has never hurt you. Lucky you, if you can. Church is place where you protect, defend, remain fiercely loyal, even when it hurts.]
Because this is what family does.
They love hard.
So, cling to the family God has blessed you with. Peer far past their faults into the glitter of Life in their hearts. The life that comes from Jesus. The Author and Perfector of faith. The One who works all together for good to those who love Him.
Does Church hurt? Of course it does. But we are family. And family Never. Gives. Up.
Enter to win a copy of Varina Denman's debut novel "Jaded", where Church Hurt is riddled throughout the pages, but also a redemptive story of God's grace and the family we so desperately need! And visit here for a continuing discussion on #StopJading within our family. (And, every great giveaway includes some Starbucks and mug, right?
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Jaime Wright -
Spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Youth leader. Professional
Coffee Drinker. Works in HR and specializes in sarcasm :) - Represented by: Books & Such Literary Agency
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