It was a sign I never saw but was the topic of conversation around a dinner table years ago. My friend drove by a local Church and saw the sign along the road and it read, “The Church is for Hurting People.” We wondered if they knew what they said.
Maybe they did. Maybe it was their invite to come. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Either way you look at it, it is true.
The Church should be a haven, a safe place for hurting people, people down on their luck and exhausted from the rat-race of life however if you have ever been IN the Church, especially in leadership, you’d know, just like I came to find out, the Church hurts people as well.
OH. DOES. IT.
So I left it. Partially.
I stopped showing up and withdrew my all-in heart and played it safe on the sidelines. Through it, I came to know Jesus more intimately, personally. I discovered “Church” was not just in a building but a group of sister-friends, within my family, on the lake, at home on a day where physical and mental rest was needed.
Church was IN me, whereever I went. Why would I ever need to subject myself to the drama that “Church” brought? Because to be honest, I fell short in Church. Someone was always following Jesus closer and running faster and speaking louder and more freely. Someone else was sitting in the front row instead of corralling in the back and they were NOT holding their heart back or walking in with the baggage I carried. After a while worship seemed to exist for the approval of man and it all seemed like a ridiculous parade of paupers pleading for the attention and approval of a few.
And I don’t do cliques and as a recovery people-pleaser, I felt like it was a weekly trap that made old wounds surface and sting.
The lake or the early Sunday morning run never made my heart ache the way that building did and Jesus spoke clearly and I grew.
Or did I?
Fast forward to Thursday night. Book club and nine of the best ladies I know are gathered around my table and a fellow leader speaks up and bares her heart raw. She is hurt. By Church.
And I think of the marquis sign outside of the Church I never saw.
“The Church is for Hurting People.”
Our book this month was “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. One of her quotes that stood out to me as my young friend talked was this:
“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”
Often times when we are hurt or we interpret someone else’s actions or comments negatively, especially in regards to WHO WE ARE, we withdraw. “I don’t like how they make me feel. I don’t like how this place makes me feel,” is common, especially in the context of Church and instead of asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Am I being convicted?” or better yet, “What is going on inside of me?” we quickly label it as judgement and walk away.
Door Closed. Heart Closed.
My issue, NOT theirs.
If we do not ask ourselves these hard questions and give ourselves time and space to answer them HONESTLY, we are confined in our hurt which then turns into anger, bitterness and potential hatred.
But if we are able to honestly answer and do not take things personally, we can turn our hurt into compassion and learn how to connect with an open heart to make our environment, our Church, better.
Because here is the thing, we need one another and if we want to talk Church, we ARE it.
You + Me = We
And if you don’t show up.
If I don’t.
Then WE all miss out.
Full circle: I got my grown-ass-self into the shower yesterday and went…TO THE BUILDING.
And I can still easily interpret with my cynical eye the show, the parade that is often tainted by my own insecurities, but I had to walk in intentionally posturing my heart to SEE, to HEAR. And I am so glad I did.
I desperately needed and have been longing for something specific. A word from God. I am finding myself at an intersection, a cross roads in life and I need clarity as a I sit in the ashes of my pain. So I sat and I listened and received not just a word but The Word Himself…THROUGH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE.
I would have missed out if I did not show up to that building some call Church.
Friends, I get it. I no longer want to be caught in the trappings of religion. I don’t want to show up just in order to say I love Jesus. He is not a pin or some badge that I wear nor is He something I cross off my list. I do not go because I SHOULD. Rituals such as regular attendance…no thanks. I whole heartedly believe there are seasons and sometimes in order to gain perspective, we need to step back in order to step up and see with clarity.
But I am finding those seasons are short. They are not your typical Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall.
We NEED one another. We do. The lake can give me a place to breathe and appreciate the glory and splendor of God and I can soak in the sun with a smile and receive some IG worthy revelation that I could share with my picture-perfect cloud that I post but we are made to crave FLESH and BLOOD.
Life’s Little Lesson is this:
Re-engage. Show up. Wherever you are at, WERE at, there are good people there. Good and needed people who you just don’t need but whom need what in on the inside of Y-O-U.
Please, for the love. Church is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful people.