Saturday, May 31, 2008

What would it take for you to give us a chance?

Hat tips to Erin, Barb, and Happy and the many commenters on their posts. . . I'm partly picking up on a conversation already in progress on several other blogs. But partly not. This complex of stuff has been swirling in my thoughts for months. You can think of it as an open letter, I suppose, because there's a number of you out there that I would address it to individually, if you lived in my little splodge of Indiana . . . which you don't . . .

Hi. I'm the local pastor's wife. Our church is small--there are two dozen bigger ones in town. We're not doing glitz; we don't have the people to pull it off even if we wanted to. Things often look pretty staid and conventional of a Sunday morning. (I know I do--I'm never at my best in the morning). I would like to have you worship with us. I would like to worship with you--will you give me the chance to worship with you?

I've read some of what you've been writing lately. You sound like someone that I'd like to know. A vibrant, interesting person. A person who's willing to ask questions and let the answers mean something. I love having those conversations. I know you're not going to a church these days. What would it take for you to give ours a chance?

I know you were burned pretty bad last time. Neglect. Lies. Overwork. And boxes--more than anything, you're leery because "they" tried to stuff you into a too-small box and you were told that that was the Christian life. Well, you figured that God is far, far bigger than that. Weirder, wilder, stranger. Holier and more awesome than our frail little human frames can even begin to dream of.

Here's the thing. I dream of having a church full of people who know that--know down in their gut that belonging to Christ means a wild ride. That God growing us into the people he wants us to be is going to shatter our boxes and expectations . . . that chasing Jesus is not a side-bar to whatever life we happen to be living anyway, but that it is turning "in a direction that isn't usually there . . . a left turn that was left to absolutely everything." And that it leads us to a place more wonderful, real, and difficult than this world wants to admit exists. I want a whole church of that. I want the gift of being able to worship together with people who take me off guard.

Oh yeah. It'll be messy. I really do know that--have I mentioned that I'm a mess too? I'm not completely clueless. I know that the realest, most alive parts of our being are the places where we've been hurt the most deeply, the places that the darkness seems to live. And yes, that's what I want--I want a church where we're not afraid of each other's brokeness . . . because I think that it's only when we dive into those depths that we can find out just how much further God goes.

But here's the thing. There can't be a church of hurt people together unless some of the people who know that they're hurt are willing to give me, to give us, to give each other a chance . . . I've heard you say that what you want doesn't exist. And I know that our congregation isn't that either. Yet. But I would like to take it closer. And I'd like to have your company along the way. I think that by God's grace we could build something pretty good--and I think it would be better for having your insights, hurt, expectations and creativity in it. Is there anything I can do so that you would give a less-than-perfect church--any church--a second chance?


Barb said...

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face I just want to say that you have seriously messed with me with this post.

I know there are people in my town that feel the same way. I just need Father to introduce them. Maybe I need to search them out but right now I'm so tired and I'll admit I'm afraid.

Barry said...

I wish I knew of a church with that sort of attitude near me. I'd definitely give them a chance. Unfortunately, your attitude seems to be very rare among those who are actually still part of a church. Still, we live in hope...

Tyler Dawn said...

Hi sweetie,

I followed the link from Barb's site.

I am willing to give everyone a chance, but I am tired of the corporate thing. I want real one on one relationships. I want to look into someone's eyes as they share their struggles and know that they are looking right back at me and seeing the love I have for them -- and I would cherish the same in return. Believe me, if the Lord were to lead me to a church setting, I would go, but He hasn't and after four years I am done asking why. It's up to Him and He knows best.

If it makes you feel any better, my closest Christian friend in this small town I live in is a Southern Baptist and about a year ago we had the exact kind of discussion I just wrote about. Through my tears, she saw ME and stopped seeing my churchgoing status. Before she left, she said, "You know what? You are exactly where you need to be. And I love you. I can see that church is no place for you. You have come into a place with Him."

She is my dear sister and always welcome in my home. Everyone is, but they don't want to be there because I don't do things the way they want me to and to be honest, it is hard walking into a building knowing that the condemantion is there.

I am grateful that God has given you a fuller heart than that. I wish that you lived in my town, I would make crumpets and we could talk about Jesus for six or seven hours. But until the day He beckons me back, I stay home. Not because of you, but because that is where He has me right now.

Love you dearie. Thanks for posting your heart in this. I adore honesty above all things (well, almost all things lol)

Sara said...

Thank you, all for taking the time to comment.

Barb--I will pray that the Father makes the introduction then. :) I truly believe that your honesty is and will be an incalcuable gift for those with ears to hear.

Barry--thanks for stopping by. Maybe if you picked out the most likely looking candidate and gave it a shot one of them could be more so. Maybe not. I know that the church situation in Great Britain is a lot slimmer than here in the U.S.

Tyler Dawn (Is that a first and middle or first and last name?)--Good to have you! I'd love to eat crumpets and talk Jesus! We could solve the problems of the world . . . if our toddlers would ever let us get a word in edgewise.

One of the things that makes this all sort of tricky is that I can't just walk up to someone and say, "Hi. I'm going to be your new best friend! Tell me all your deepest, messiest problems . . ." This community we all crave takes relationships and time and risks . . .

Erin said...

Great post, Sara. I appreciate this, and I know there are people like you who do care and want to welcome people like me.

Also, like Barb, I do think/know there are people like me around here, I just don't know how to find them.

And I want to be able to be with people who I fear will judge and hurt me, but I can't bring myself to it. Is community supposed to make us miserable? Because if that's the case, I'll pass...which in my experience is why I am a lone ranger. This isn't to say that YOUR community would make me miserable...because I can't know that...I'm talking about the options I DO know, for me, around here.

Sigh, I hope you know I'm not meaning to attack you...because I hear your heart and I love that you feel this way.

I'm just a bit of a cynic and a skeptic. I wish I wasn't. But I've been on this journey over 3 year so no end.

Tyler Dawn said...

hey Sara :)

Tyler is the first and Dawn is the middle. I got tired of having online people think I was a guy so I tack on my middle name so there is less confusion :D

Rob said...

One of my good friends in CPE, who was on her way to being a full-time chaplain in an Alzheimer's facility, was named Troy Faith . . .

Sara said...

Erin--would you believe that by natural inclination I'm a cynic and a skeptic too? Maybe it's just that I've been lucky (blessed? fortunate?)enought to have lived for a while with a couple of communities that got it right enough that I know down in my gut that it's not inevitable that all trying is for naught. Both of the ones that I'm thinking of were ones that I left because of long distance moves.

I don't think that there is anyone here who would judge you, incidentally . . . there are a few who might not approve in private, but who would consider it inexcuably bad manners to actually communicate such a thing! Also who are humble enough to know that their opinion is not the only or final standard by which to judge.

I say this not because I expect it to matter in the details (you're not moving to IN), but because I'm coming to believe that the primary Christian virtue is humility. The recognition that we're all screwing up something, and that even if I am right about this one thing, that doesn't mean that I need to shove it in your face. And always looking to learn and grow myself. There are communities marked by such--it might be enough to go on with.

Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... like Barb, this post brought tears.

Hmm... being patient with me while I heal and learn to trust again - no pressure of blaming or condescension during that process (and no timetable for how long it will take). Honestly, as I sit here and cry, I'm not sure I can even put in words what I would need... Thank you for the willingness to reach out. But, I'm a long way from Indiana. ;)

Sara said...

Katherine--Hi. I appreciate your coming by. I think that this all speaks in part to the evil that has come into the church under the name of such things as "quantifiable growth." Too many of us have bought into the world's obsession with year-end statements . . . forgetting that the real work of God that we're supposed to be involved in more often is better measured in decades . . . God's blessing on you.

Abigail said...

"I dream of having a church full of people who know that--know down in their gut that belonging to Christ means a wild ride. That God growing us into the people he wants us to be is going to shatter our boxes and expectations . . ."

What a fantastic post! My thoughts exactly as my life gets stranger and stranger the deeper in go into this faith journey. "I never thought I be here!" is frequent thought these days. At the same time, I never thought that the "new here" would be so great!