Posts Tagged ‘The church’

Overcoming my unbelief.

For the last two years, we have not served in a church or participated in a church. My “breakup” with the church was far more personal and painful than I ever expected.  I never expected “my God” to allow such harm to come to us. You see, God was the one who loved me unconditionally.  I was from a rough home, a rough family life that told me I wasn’t good enough, so God was my comforter, my shield. Our breakup from the church was so much more painful than anything I had experienced in my past, because I never believed that God would allow me to enter into that kind of pain in His name.

In these past two years, our views on others and love have changed, and for the better. I believe that. More than that, I have entertained seeds of doubt about God: Does God really exist? Does God really care? Is God the active, intimate Being that we proclaim? Is religion even necessary? Does it do any good?

I’ve felt the pressure to walk away from God.  So many of the intelligent, wonderful people I look up to have done the same. Would I proclaim myself to be foolish and simple for continuing to follow God?  Also, would it align me with the people who say and do terrible and awful things in the name of the Lord? I don’t want to be known as judgmental and angry. Can I love the earth and want to take care of it and still be a believer? Can I care about the “least of these” and be aligned with the American Church?

The truth is: so many terrible, awful things have been done and said in the name of the Lord, and they have been lumped under the term “conservative Evangelicals.”  But the actions of the few (majority) cannot change what I feel in my heart. I cannot walk away from the teachings of Jesus. I feel compelled to follow Him.  I am also entering into this time with my spiritual jargon in disarray. I cannot use the old phrases anymore without needing to know exactly what I am saying. I cannot teach my child blindly.

It’s a disbelieving, agnostic world we live in.  That will not change.

Every day I encounter a thought, a bold word of unbelief, and I have to ask myself, “Will I believe this? Or will I follow what I am not sure of, even if this makes me look like a simpleton?” Perhaps this is real faith — following when you know the other side.

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

… but words will always hurt me.

Let me get to the crux of the matter.  There are days that I can barely lift my head because I feel like I am worthless in this world.  No amount of bags I make, things I create, kisses I give my child can change that. Often, I am crippled by the fear of newness and change, longing to remain behind the walls I have put -both literally and mentally- between myself and the world.

Some days I believe I am an amazing writer and that people like to read what I passionately and lovingly place on (digital) paper.
Some days I believe that I am talented with my artistic endeavors.
Some days I believe that I am beautiful with a nice outfit and a fixed up face.
Some days I believe that I am highly intelligent.

Then there are the “damn it all” days where a little voice tells me that nothing is true. “April, you’re past your “beautiful” years. You had them in college.  They are gone now.  There are much better writers than you. Writers that create stories that make you want to be their best friend in an instant. Writers that create beautiful tapestries with their words.  April, you are no longer in college.  There are much smarter people that you.  You are not intelligent.  If you were, you’d have a life. April, while you are creative, you create nothing new.  Face it, you are average. Forgettable. ”

I am not saying this because I want you to pity me.  I am saying it because these are the words that cause tears to fall from my eyes and roll down my cheeks.  These are the words that “win” in my mind. These are the words that cut me to my soul and render me speechless.

Tonight I spoke to my brother, asking him to help me lose weight by calling me every morning to motivate me to work out. He encouraged me to go back to school to take a class or two and work on my masters.

“You’re smart enough,” he said.  “I know that last church messed you up, but if you quit striving, you die.”

I told him that we needed to focus on Todd getting a degree, not me.

“But April, you and Todd are made for each other. Both of you draw people to you without trying. Look at these bags and things. You’re not even trying to create a business, and yet you are selling bags.”

I told him that what “I would love to do, more than anything is to write and blog and do creative stuff for the rest of my life.”

“Then do it,” he said.  “Who cares if you make another dollar off of it? You love it, right? So if it takes you sixty dollars to make and you sell it for sixty dollars, would you never make another one? If you love it, do it.  I’m just fortunate that I make money doing what I love, but I would do it even if I didn’t make money.  If I die without a dollar to my name, and not a dollar in debt, then I’ve lived a successful life. If you stop striving, you die. You can do more than you give yourself credit for.”

My brother, when did you become so much smarter than me?

Why do I allow the words of those who do not love me to affect me more than the words of those that do? Most of the most damaging words I cling to were spoken by people who do not think a single thought about me during their daily lives.  Quickly, I forget the professors, family, friends, ministers, etc who told me that they thought I held promise. Promise.

Promise.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Associating with Job

I’ve been thinking about Job recently. I have a sweet aunt
that is considered the “Job” of our family. She is one of the
sweetest, most cheerful, loving women you will EVER meet and she is
the Godliest woman I know. Every time she and her husband
have obtained something that would be considered “successful,” it
has been taken from them. They have served in numerous
churches, some with some horribly nasty results. She still praises
God for everything and you believe that she believes in Him with
all her heart. How can I explain to you how loving and sweet she
is? Just take my word for it. Watching my aunt made me think.
Everything I think and do now is tinted by a cynicism that I have
never held before. I used to think I was heavily shielded to
the hardships of life — that I could survive like Job — because I
had dealt with blow after blow as a child and teenager. I
would still praise God because He loved me and while He could deal
with the people who have hurt me, He chose to love me and take care
of me. When the place that I associated with love, comfort, and
hope decided to act in a way that was unbefitting to itself — it
crushed me. Legally, a corporation wouldn’t do what the
church did, and it seems so unthinkable and
ungodly that the church acted in this way. In
my mind I had decided, “God, you can allow life to be tough.
You can give me struggles. Please, You cannot take away my comfort
with You.” When that was taken away, my foundation was
shaken. It’s easy to be grateful when your “non-negotiable”
is still intact. Money has always
been tight for me.
I remember welfare and
WIC, my grandparents paying for everything, and secondhand
clothing. While it made for some hard times with other kids, I feel
like I appreciated what I received and that makes me more
appreciative as an adult. I have had a shaky
family.
It doesn’t scare me or break me down if Todd
and I are having a rough time. It makes us stronger and we are a
better couple for it. For some people, that’s a
non-negotiable. I’m always a little scared when I hear of a
female referring to her man as a “knight in shining armor” or their
“prince charming,” placing him on such a pedestal that will surely
get shaky. My kid will break my heart one day. My
family will always be a little too dysfunctional. That’s
life. I don’t have the nicest home, cutest clothes,
or skinny body.
I would like them, don’t get me
wrong. I would love to be in my old jeans again (when did a size 12
become a desire? ha!), I would LOVE to have a home that people want
to go to. Heck, I would just like a home, but the pressure of
meeting those are too much for me. When my comfort with God was
taken — it shook me to the core. My non-negotiable. Job had
EVERYTHING taken away from him, even his comfort. In fact,
that was the thing that struck me most about his story. He
couldn’t feel God, or see or hear Him. He felt abandoned, yet
he didn’t “Curse God and die.” My aunt hasn’t either. She
still praises Him with a gentle passion that makes you want to curl
up in her presence, if only to soak Him in through her. Can I be
that way? Can I get there? I’m trying. I hope
so. My aunt gives me hope. Do you have a
non-negotiable? Are you or have you been in this place in
your life? Can you still praise God if your non-negotiable
was taken away? The baby you always longed for, that church
position, finances, a nice home, a marriage, your family, your
talent/ability… could you still praise Him as you do
now?

the church

I’m sitting here, channeling the thoughts of a girl whom I have never met. Her words inspired me today. They brought me to tears. They made me hurt deep in my soul. What kind of a church are we if our believers cannot stand the idea of participating in such a community? What kind of a church are we if I cannot stand the idea of participating in such a community? This is my livelihood. My entire youth has been propelled by such an idea of being forever linked to a church.

My dreams were rosy and pink hued, filled with warm fuzzies and the feeling to being integrally connected with something greater than I. I thought that the church was a place of people filled with integrity, people with the overwhelming calling to serve. People who took the words of Jesus seriously.

Then I realized the church is filled with people just like me. People who screw up. People who open their mouths and shit just seems to flow out. People with selfish agendas, and convention alignments, and ulterior motives. People who believe image is everything.

How about focusing on the image of Jesus instead of the Christian subculture image of suburbia?

I agree with you. I’m also “bent on insisting that Love is the only defining principle Christianity needs – beyond what the churches are comfortable with now.” I would say that Dr. Fowlkes is right– the only way to break out of the mold is to start your own church, but that only starts another broken church. Your dream, that love-filled, Jesus centered vision of a church, starts to morph into that very same broken place. Suddenly, your place is growing like crazy, and although you’re stating that you don’t want to be like any other church, things start to look a little too familiar. People walk in with their own agendas. That little community you have come to love so much starts to look a little too “Purpose Driven.”

So you start another church.

My voice resonates with a heady blend of cynicism, rebellion, and defeat. I know. I’m in a place where I have to accept my limitations where I am. I know that my personal views of how the church should be are forced into submission, waiting for the day when I can break out of my chains and help heal The Church. It comes eventually. I have to hope for that. The world’s not as simple as I thought it would be, and the church is not the place of growth and healing I dreamed of. The only thing that hasn’t changed is Jesus. If I can’t be radical, then I’m going to die trying to show the world that Jesus is radical. He’s the life changer. I’ll die for that.

I’ll live to die. Not for the church as she is, but for the church she was designed to be.

I’m sorry, my friend that I’ve never met. If you’re here to change the world, then you’re in for a long, hard road. You’re in for days where you just want to give up. You’re in for weeks that you WILL give up. You’ll say “to Hell with it” and you’ll turn your back, but if you’re called– you’ll always come back. The church– She needs our help.

The Church

i have come with one purpose
to capture for myself a bride
by my life she is lovely
by my death she’s justified

i have always been her husband
though many lovers she has known
so with water i will wash her
and by my word alone

so when you hear the sound of the water
you will know you’re not alone

(chorus)
‘cause i haven’t come for only you
but for my people to pursue
you cannot care for me with no regard for her
if you love me you will love the church

 

i have long pursued her
as a harlot and a whore
but she will feast upon me
she will drink and thirst no more

so when you taste my flesh and my blood
you will know you’re not alone

(chorus)
there is none that can replace her
though there are many who will try
and though some may be her bridesmaids
they can never be my bride

-Derek Webb