I love my church. Sometimes that is a healthy thing, sometimes it isn’t.
I’ve been attending over 16 years. They have helped me through some tough times. They have rejoiced with me and grieved with me. They have helped in tight spots, and permitted me to be a part of their lives.
When I am there I feel like I am a part of a family. Every Sunday is a family reunion without the hot dogs and softball game. There are folks there I admire greatly, and folks I don’t know as well as I should, and folks who think differently than I do. But odd or normal, young or old, these people mean a lot to me.
There has been times when I put too much of my energy into that place. I’ve put hours and hours into crafting a four or five minute video when I should have been paying more attention to my family, to my marriage.
There are many things I love about that church.
I love worship. I shut my eyes and lift my voice with others, coaxing my heart to hold the lyrics as prayers, offerings to Him.
I love the Prayer Room. It is a retreat from the world where I can go to pray without interruptions. I can read my Bible, pray silently or aloud, write or draw my prayers on the walls, sometimes I even take a solitary communion there, just me and God. Kind of a strange idea, isn’t it? Communion outside of community, except for the trinity that is.
I’ve a strange idea about church that has been growing in my mind and heart lately. As much as church helps me to connect ot God, might it not also interfere with developing a closer relationship to Him?
Church provides the stability to my beliefs, helping me not stray too far (who knows where this odd mind of mine would end up if I only listened to my own thoughts?!), it keeps doctrines straight and healthy. In church, in the company of men and women I trust, my faith is strengthened and kept true.
But perhaps I rely on them too much.
In church I am a part of a human social network, perhaps a little too similar to other human social networks such as Kiwanis, or Rotary, or The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In church I wear my best clothes, mostly so those in attendance can see me wearing my best clothes (well, actually, I don’t wear a tie there, which I do at work, but you know what I mean).
In church I carefully keep a good face on, keeping up appearances. Of course lately, I have to paste on a plastic face so my pain doesn’t show. I don’t want too much scrutiny from those who aren’t very, very close.
But I’ve been thinking about Jesus. In church I hold Him up in reverence, keeping His holiness in the forefront of my thoughts because it is there I am most reminded of His sacrifice for me. The cross is a symbol of such great love, purchased at such great cost, that I am humbled, and there that symbol is everywhere I look.
Is that really how Jesus wants me to connect to Him?
What if I stripped away the blinders church puts on me? What if I set aside my trembling righteous fear of the Almighty Living Word? What if I simply invited Him to take part in the day to day pain and drudgery and, well, crap, of living as a human being?
He would get that, wouldn’t He?
He knows what it’s like to eat and sweat and get dirty, to need sleep and defecate and do all the tedious parts of living as a mortal.
Isn’t He the Eternal Mortal? Isn’t He carrying the wounds of His sacrifice into Eternity? Isn’t He the Living Word who not only did the big scary stuff, like create the universe, but went through being a baby, and a toddler? Didn't He stumble while learning to walk, got scrapes and bruises and the pimples of adolescence?
If I lived in Judea two thousand years ago and met Him before He began His ministry, before He gathered the twelve, wouldn’t He have been the kind of guy I could sit beside and listen as He talked about the best way to smooth a piece of dogwood? Wouldn’t He have given me a friendly hug if I told Him that I hurt because my child died? Wouldn’t He have walked with me through a grove of fig trees so I could spend a little time unburdening my heart over my confusion about my marriage?
So what makes that relationship so hard to grasp now?
Isn’t the whole idea about inviting Him into my heart really an echo of the idea that He is by nature an intimate internal relationship, The Trinity? Isn’t that the sort of relationship He wants with me?
What if I set aside the terror I feel when I think about Him from my knowledge about the vastness, complexity, and beauty of the universe? What if I paused in my trembling over the wonder of beauty and joy and all the good which I know flows like sunshine from Him?
What if I simply said, Jesus, my Lord, Big Brother, Savior, and Creator, could You sit beside me a little while and just be my friend? Isn’t that something He knows how to do?
I’ve several good friends who will do that with me. I’ve written about them from time to time. Recently I wrote about one who took me out for coffee and simply listened to me as I spoke about things he already knew. As most of you know, someone who simply listens is always considered a great conversationalist and this friend is such.
This friend of mine rarely offers advice. And half of the times he does it is in joke.
What if I tried that relationship with Jesus? What if I really let myself share who I am, everything I am? What if instead of just offering Him my praises and worship and reverence and prayers, I also acknowledge that I want Him to carry some of my pain, just exactly the same way He carried that cross after allowing mortals to spit, whip, and beat Him?
What if I added the rough texture of my friendship to the polished surface of my church worship? What might happen to my faith then?
Just a thought.