I have been wondering a lot lately about what people who aren’t part of a Christian community would need to hear from someone like me. Today, I am inspired by two things: 1) we don’t need to get our lives together to be enough for church or God and 2) our lives are more than Sunday morning and how do we deal with that?
As I have been pondering this week, messages about all of our selves being used for God’s purpose keep coming my way. In my own life, I can look back and see God’s hand in the joyous moments and in the darkest times. And I can definitely see where God took something bad, resurrected it, and used it for His purpose. Let me say emphatically that I do not believe God sent these bad things; I believe He transformed those things for His purpose in His time. I am not a believer in the theology that God “gets our attention” with tragedy or hardship because I know that we have free will to make some pretty lousy choices and that there is an evil force in this world.
So, from my own experience, I have sat in the pews of the church with a life unraveling and feeling pretty unworthy. God knew it all, as we pray in the Episcopal Church: “from you no secrets are hid.” And He still spoke to me and used me for His purposes. The Episcopal Church is not a place or building – it’s a community of people brought together by love with no qualification criteria. You don’t have to be good enough.
Secondly, you don’t have to be sure enough. Sometimes, I hear from folks that they aren’t sure what they believe and so they need to figure that out before they go to church. Their faith is absent or floundering or just beginning and that is totally OKAY. Remember that for two centuries, church was a group of followers, not a building. And all those thousands who came to hear Jesus speak on a hillside couldn’t have been completely sure of why they were there or what they believed. But they went anyway.
As to number two, that we are more than Sunday morning, how do we deal with that? Do you feel a certain hypocrisy between how loving and accepting you can be on Sunday morning but by the end of the Monday morning staff meeting at work, would happily strangle your boss and dance on his grave? How do we take Sunday to Monday? I struggled with this for years as I worked mostly in the oil and gas industry, a field dominated by male leadership and “suck it up” attitudes. I’m not male bashing; I’m talking about my challenges being (sometimes) the only woman in a room full of men and having my abilities questioned or assumptions made because of my gender. I often felt that I was “doing battle” and my thoughts were not always charitable. I rarely spoke to anyone disrespectfully but thank God the thought balloon over my head was invisible. [another post coming on this later]
If God made the entire world and everything in it, then is anything really secular? I’ve pretty much taken this word “secular” out of my vocabulary. To be sure, there is a church world, an education world, a business world, but I believe these are more like arenas and continually making this distinction between the spiritual and everything else shortchanges God. In an effort to make the sacred special and holy, I inadvertently drew a sharp line between Sunday and Monday and it left me feeling spiritually lost during the work week. So, to all of you who feel like the rest of your life, in whatever way, doesn’t match up to Sunday morning, come anyway. You’re not alone.
Further to the point about a sharp line between Sunday and Monday is the sharp line we can draw between “church friends” and “real friends.” I have several friends who don’t socialize with their church friends because of fear of judgment. This usually crops up around serving alcohol at a party in their home and so that means no church friends can be invited. I rarely, if ever, drink alcohol but let’s not forget that Jesus turned water into wine as his first miracle and it was for recreational purposes. I am keenly aware of the havoc wreaked by addiction but I am also at peace that some people are able to partake and not lose their soul. If, for any reason, you feel that you can’t be yourself beyond Sunday morning with those you worship with, find a new Christian community. Really. God wants your whole life, not just Sunday mornings.
Jesus sought out the broken people and the outcasts. He wasn’t just looking for the shining examples of piety. And there were some pretty amazing works done by a motley crew of apostles. Come with all your questions, scars, and mistakes. God will use all of you for His amazing purpose.