if you haven’t noticed by now, i have some pretty strong opinions about church-y stuff that can definitely come across as judgemental and harsh. harsher than sometimes i want it to. i do not mean to, it’s not like i set out to let it rip every time i sit down on my computer. i sometimes purposefully do not read back on old posts sometimes because i know that i will cringe at some of the things i say in there, but really, i am trying to stay in the moment as much as i can. the whole purpose of the carnival blog is to say out loud, and fairly unedited, some of what was rolling around in my head and also to be some sort of small voice to the many people i talk to online, in coffee shops, in all kinds of places who are expressing similar thoughts & feelings about faith & life & Jesus & the wonderful, beautiful, messed-up thing called the church. riding this fine line of saying some things that for whatever reason i need to say & being conscientious of how easy it is to become just as pharisaical as all the things i can’t stand is tricky (and maybe nearly impossible).
yes, i have issues with the church. yes, i struggle with money & power & inequality related to the structures & systems. yes, the injustices & the inconsistencies do make me more than a little nutty sometimes. yes, i dream for something different and see it emerging in all kinds of ways. and no, i do not have all the new answers or think that i have any kind of market cornered on the way it “should be” even though i sometimes sound like it.
for whatever reason, i go through seasons where almost every one of my hot buttons related to “big church” gets pushed. it’s sometimes comical & we manage to have a laugh or two about it, but other times it swoops in out of nowhere and catches me by surprise. that is kind of what happened to me in the past few weeks in preparation for off the map here in denver. i have so many amazing friends in this town, all kinds of free-thinkers & ex-church-patriots & dreamers & doers. every single week i sit across the table from people inside and outside of my community and leave feeling encouraged. at the same time, in pulling it all off i bumped up against a few things that…well, all’s i can say is: PTSD. that’s exactly what it felt like, just a weird tinge of post traumatic stress disorder, that came not just out of the clear blue sky but out of some interactions & circumstances. it reminded me that i’m not crazy-church self-protection, holding back information from people & fear of certain conversations isn’t just in my imagination. it tripped the wire to my church issue landmine and another bomb, albeit smaller than ever, went off. my heart just sometimes can’t take it. it’s unexplainable to some, although i know many of you out there get it and understand. it takes me by surprise and then i am so mad at myself that i let it get to me in the first place. but it’s just a part of my story, that’s all, no escaping it. and sometimes the bruises and bumps (or for some, gaping wounds) from our past experiences get rubbed against again, even in a small way, and it just stirs up trouble. personally, i think it’s good trouble because every time i learn from it and grow in my journey away from what was and toward what could be. i have to say, though, it’s so weird to me how somehow i can end up feeling like such an outsider in certain select christian circles. it makes me even more thankful for my true friends in-flesh-and-blood and out here in blogland, people who get me and don’t think i’m some kind of nutty heretic (or at least love me anyway).
so here’s where God continues to work on my heart: i am humbled. this past sunday at the refuge we talked about the beatitude of “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” and how purity of heart is an honesty before God, each other, a staying current. so i’m just trying to stay current: the big and complicated evangelical church is hard on my soul & sometimes i don’t handle it as well as i want to. no one has to understand it. sometimes i don’t really either. but for all kinds of reasons, it just is sometimes. and i am learning to let my feelings be my feelings and call it a day. at the same time, i don’t want to be a judgemental jerk. i want to continue to be transformed into Christ’s image & let go of things that hinder life, peace, freedom. so yet again, i am learning a lot about my brokenness, my pride, my need for God.
yeah, when it comes to church, God is bigger than my limited little craziness. God is at work in things that i absolutely cannot stand and believe are just a big waste of time and money. God is God and i am not. yet, even though i say i am glad God’s God, i am sure i secretly resent him for not taking care of things the way i am quite certain they need to be taken care of! in the many conversations at off the map the most important piece was how to really live with one another, especially when we see things differently. the refuge t-shirts say “it’s better to be kind than right” (brian mclaren said that at off the map in 2006). i can easily live with atheists, notorious sinners, the least of these, and almost anything in between. the people i have the hardest time living with are the ones who are dedicated to a system that i fundamentally disagree with. how can i offer them as much grace as i have myself received and can pass on to many others?
and at the same time, offering grace doesn’t mean compromising myself and giving up my convictions. we (me & some church leaders) do not see eye to eye on a lot of things. it’s just that simple. and that will probably never change. i am not saying i’m “right”, i am just saying “this is what i believe, at least in this moment, and for whatever reason it feels really important to say it out loud especially for others who can’t.” we all know any shifts we make in the kingdom aren’t going to come through patting ourselves on the back and saying “good job” to things that honestly we don’t think are good ideas. plus the labor pains we all are feeling are because something is shifting in the fundamentals of the church, the world, when it comes to faith. these shifts are rocking far more than my laundry list of issues with the church. one of the things i loved about the off the map weekend is i also met some new people who are actually firmly entrenched in “big church” but are really working on learning to change, shift, morph to become more inclusive & missional (now that’s beautiful).
long story short, i am thankful for the wrestling, the humbling. i like peace & easy & everything my way. but that is usually never where i change. and for whatever reason, despite all the churn, this swirl of the past week has unhooked me yet again from something i keep needing unhooking from. it somehow heightened my deep sense of gratitude for my current life & community & this season in my faith. i have a great hopefulness for the future that requires i focus on what’s right before me. that’s plenty.
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ps: if you want to check out some great pix from last week’s off the map live born again church tour that my friend jenny herrick took , click here.