Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the body.


A friend of mine recently shared with me that she's quit going to church.

She just couldn't take it anymore, she said.

She'd been too hurt. She had seen people do too many hateful things in the name of Jesus.

She's still a believer, she reassured me.

Just giving up church for a while. It had become a distraction from her walk with Christ.

---

The body of Christ is a tricky thing, a pack of imperfect, struggling, and broken people with a call to greatness and gracefulness.

I sympathize with my friend, because I've been there. Am there.

And like she does, I struggle. I wonder if the body of Christ is really fulfilling its purpose, or if it's mostly just muddling through.

I've been hurt by a word misspoken, a deed undone. I've seen acts of anger and hatred and discord. I've had my feelings bruised and battered. I've listened to arguments over worship styles and ministry preferences and whether homeless people are worth the food we serve.

And I hate it. I hate what Christ's body has the tendency to become.

But I can't leave it. I can't stop going to church. I can't give up on the community of faith I have chosen to be a part of.

Because I remember.

I remember the faces who watched me dance with my daddy on my and Jordan's wedding day. I remember the women who made food and donated quilts and put together cookbooks. I remember lifting up our voices in song on one of the most beautiful mornings God ever made. I remember the hundreds of cards sent to my grandmother as she battled brain cancer and the tears shed with me at my grandfathers' funerals. I remember the wedding and graduation gifts, the hugs and encouraging words. I remember the generous souls who helped send me overseas for school. I remember the way they welcomed Dave into their midst without ever questioning his background or his smell or the way he dipped snuff during communion. I remember the prayers for my future. I remember the legacies of my parents and my grandparents, and mostly I just know: These people are good. Not because of anything they have done, but because Christ's blood covers them like it covers me.

And sometimes they mess up. And they say things and do things that I'm not sure our Lord would be pleased with. We argue over silly traditions and beat each other up in a way I think embarrasses the name we carry.

But there is beauty in redemption, and despite every hurtful word or thoughtless deed, I know that there is love. That the excellent way we are called to follow is alive and well in these souls I gather with each Sunday.

My heart hurts when I think of the pain sometimes caused by Christ's body on the world and on its own members. I am not proud of that, and I shudder when I think of the souls lost and wandering because they can't recognize Christ in the Christians they meet.

But I think I would tell them to look more closely. Because underneath the stubbornness and brokenness are people genuinely trying to seek the Savior.

On the days I have difficulty understanding the church and its messiness, on the days I want to quit, God reminds me that I wouldn't be the same without them.

This body has raised me. They rejoiced at my birth. They sang at my baptism, prayed over my education, and asked a blessing on my marriage. Their faces are the faces of my family. And they are imperfect and flawed and broken, but they are my brothers and my sisters. They share my name and my blood.

I understand my friend's hurt. I have been there. Am there. I know.

But I don't think the answer is to give up on God's people. Because God doesn't give up on you or on me.

It is true. We are called to be holy. To follow that excellent way. But we fail miserably.

Maybe you're like my friend, too. And you've been hurt, and church just doesn't make sense to you anymore.

I''m sorry. I want you to know: That's not what church was meant to be. I'm asking for you to give the body a second chance, to do what it was designed to do best: grace and forgiveness and love.

We are redeemed, but we are still damaged goods. A little bit messy and a little bit broken. But we are striving to be great. To be holy as he is holy.

Be patient with us. Show us grace. Help us to walk in a way worthy of the calling we have received.

---

"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them."
- I John 3:23-24

10 comments:

monster cakes said...

My pastor recently said something that stuck with me: "If you find a perfect church--don't go--you'll ruin it." Basically he was reminding us that we are all sinners, and if you find a perfect church, there's something not right because churches make mistakes too. It's helpful to focus on the cross and remember why we are all there, like you said. The enemy hates the church and wants us to quit, so let's prove him wrong. : )

Sabrina said...

"Their faces are the faces of my family." Amen to that. Sometimes I think that imperfections in people and the church remind us of our longing for Heaven, and that comforts me. I will pray for your friend, I will continue to pray for the church worldwide. I guess the only thing I can think of is something I once talked about with a struggling friend.....never let a person here on this Earth (in the church or not) get in the way of your eternal salvation. It's too important and it's way too precious to get marred by the flaws of human nature.

Jilliebeanie said...

Holding back weeping because I'm at work, but oh my...this hits home in a major way.

Girly Muse said...

This is perfectly said...

Mrs. Dunbar said...

Hello, I just found your blog via Cherry Tree Lane and wow, I am so glad I did.

I loved your words about The Body of Christ. We go to a church that really strives to be "real", which doesn't always happen, but its a start. Our pastor always says, "People don't go to church because they've been there." How sad is that? Thanks for the food for thought today.

Sugar Mama said...

A great post! My entire childhood and early adulthood was filled with attending church every Sunday and Wednesday.

Until 5 years ago.

I quit going as well. Like your friend. But the part that I struggle with is knowing that my 3 children aren't experiencing church.

But my husband and I haven't been able to go back quite yet. I pray that my children will not be lost because of this.

We are messy and broken. So I don't expect church to be perfect... for me it just got to where I felt like I was going just to say I was going, and not able to focus on God while I was there.

Brittany said...

Great post, Annie! It makes me think of the song "If We Are The Body."

Lori said...

PERFECTLY WRITTEN. I cannot imagine a better post. This hits home big time.

http://penelopeblue.blogspot.com/

Elizabeth Dean said...

It is so interesting to see this here. I was just thinking about this earlier this week. I have some friends who are seriously burned on the whole idea of church because they see it a place of exclusion rather than hope.

mom said...

Such a good post Annie! I needed this! I love you :)
Mom