A lot has happened over the past three years. It took me a good four months to enter a church after my previous experience. It took another couple of months to actually sit through an entire service, a whole year to make it through without crying during worship, or getting full on angry about something that was said. I wish I could say we moved on, found a perfect church (yeah… I know it doesn’t exist) and everything was completely better. That’s not the case. But here’s what we did find: a place that, despite our kids ages (15 and 13 at the time), wanted their help to lead worship. We found a church that wanted our family to be a part of their community, despite our warnings that we came with baggage… enough to fill a house.
I remember Jamie and I sitting down with the pastor and his wife. I shared the epiphany of my mentor informing me that I had the heart of a prophet… and for that reason alone, not many men in leadership will probably appreciate (or like) anything I have to say. (Yeah… that would have been helpful to know about 8 years ago.) I remember telling them that their friendship was important to me and I didn’t want to jeopardize that friendship by joining their church. Two and a half years removed from that conversation, and eventually becoming members of their church, I won’t lie… there have been moments of tension between us, but, at the same time, things have been different. Probably because I’m different. (And we’re still friends… just for the record.)
The past few years have taught me something incredibly important. I don’t have to be proven right in the eyes of man. I just need to honor the Lord. I need to make sure every word leaving my lips is filtered through the Word of God and wrapped in the love of the Savior. (I’m still working on that last one.) How it’s received isn’t on me. How people respond isn’t on me either. I’ve learned to say what needs to be said and then step down from any potential confrontation, even when my words are met with anger and frustration. There’s something incredibly freeing in that. But, my husband and I also realized something else as we look back on the past eight years… we’ve been lied to a whole lot by leaders in the church. So many times, in fact, it couldn’t be a coincidence. So many times, it couldn’t be ignored.
One night, with a bottle of bourbon, Jamie and I spent a few hours looking back over the past eight years and all the inconsistencies between what was preached on Sunday mornings and what was lived out the other six days of the week. We questioned why people were so quick to talk about the sins of abortion and gay marriage, but not really bothered by the sins of gluttony or gossip. Quite possibly because they enjoy indulging themselves at the local doughnut shop while catching up on all the salacious neighborhood “news.” (If you didn’t catch the sarcasm there… it was.) We wondered why discussions about immigration and refugees turned rational people into raging pundits for nationalism who could only respond with things like “But, we have laws.” (Sounds like something the Pharisees said to Jesus when he healed people on the Sabbath?) Also… what if the church in Acts wasn’t actually “all but dead”? What if we ARE suppose to give away our possessions and not keep storehouses full of riches? What if we actually acknowledged that living the American Dream wasn’t really conducive to following Jesus. God forbid… what if we learned that it PREVENTED us from TRULY following Jesus as he prescribes in the gospels? I think we might find a lot of people turning away from their churches, much like the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus. (And we can’t have that because if they turn away, they take their money with them.)
This, my friends, is where this blog is headed. I already have enough stories to write a book. Three books. For now, I will say this: I’ve never been more HOPEFUL about the church than I am at this moment. We left Maine out of desperation and our desperation brought us to the most beautiful place we have ever been. It’s hard. There have been tears. But, we have one life and we’re going to live it like Jesus is real, alive, and seated at the right hand of the Father. We don’t have the answers, but we know the One who does. So, we’re going to chase after Him.