I Can’t Hate the Church

In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans asks the question what is it the man Jesus’ (diverse) followers all shared? She says,

“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity….No, if there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said he came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.” (p. 92)

I am thankful God brought this book into my hands right now. At the end of the hardest year of my life (so far!). After a year of stripping away; of feeling more alive than ever before & yet abandoned & confused deeper than I knew possible. A year of ultimatums & threats & old relationships turned sour & new ones (budding in dusty parts of the soul) riding the mysterious current of the River of Life.

In January I started going to a church–a communion of these Jesus followers–that I could (finally) listen to without being offended. I started hearing the Bible taught in a way that made my heart burn with passion for justice & equality & truth. Truth that linked my heart to God’s more closely. I started leaving church full-ish instead of empty. I’m thankful for the 7 months I had at Mosaic Church, and that though sometimes I felt too preached to, and (more annoyingly) too advertised to, the hugs & prayers & celebration & meals & gifts & sacraments kept me there.

Church of God in Christ. Church of Jesus Christ. Crosslife. Cornerstone. Community. Grace Bible. Why do all those names still make me throw up a little? Jesus Christ is my dearest friend; how can I have such a strong reaction against his name?

His name has been taken in vain so often, even by ones truly trying to honor who he is (myself included!). A cardboard cut out representing someone else’s Jesus has been set up with its shadow cast over the very ones he loves best. The outcasts. The marginalized. The ones who smoke weed. The homeless. The ones whose sexuality isn’t quite what culture says it should be. The murderers. Rapists. Porn addicts. Teen mothers. People with no money. The lie has been sown by the ones who claim Jesus’ name that his burden is heavy. That they have to leave behind their families & cultures & identities in order to come.

Some days I hate the church. Psalm 8:1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.” I really get the feeling on certain days that “church” makes his name un-majestic. That the big screens & the insincere liturgies & the campaigns against abortion remove the mystery & wonder of a God with a humble earthly story, a God who spoke to Moses with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). A God who invites us to munch bits of bread together & remember the united existence his death has made possible.

But I can’t hate the church. I can’t because the church is my best friends. The church is my eternal family. The church is the ones around me who know they are sick. The ones who hold my hand during a panic attack. Who go with me to get new tattoos. It is friends who don’t hesitate to affirm me while acknowledging the darkness in all of us. Who put coconut milk shampoo with the golden lid (I never would have considered myself worthy of) in my Christmas stocking. Who put together a picnic for friends of a friend. Who fail & recognize their failure but refuse to believe that anything can jeopardize their place as Children of the King. Who teach me what it is like to receive a gift–no strings attached. God’s people do this. God’s people show up & open up old scars to one another, knowing that encouragement & hope will be ministered freely. God’s people have laughed with me & danced with me through this most harrowing of years (2015).

Even a Christian pastor (the scariest kind of Christian!)  has the joyful confidence to say:

“I have to believe that God can put anything–anyone–back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.

Loving.

Forgiving.

Merciful.

Full of grace.” (Rob Bell in his book Sex God)

Mutual hunger. Shared thirst. Shattered hearts & disappointing relationships. It’s all giving birth to unimaginable wholeness. I’m watching it in my own life & in the lives of those I love. The moments we feel of unity: during communion, at the corner of campus where people share cigarettes, through the bridge of Hillsong’s latest haunting melody, when girls have talent shows without mocking laughter or competition….those are the lasting reality. Those are whispers of a season where isolation will be no more. A season of depth & health & glory. God’s church emerging from all the shadows she has cast. The eunuchs. The women. The martyrs. The children. All who know their need & drop fat tears on the feet of humble Jesus.

She is the Bride Jesus longs to show off in the Heavens, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

And she will answer, “Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

We will answer.

We will answer now–eyes on the Lamb–amidst world war, poverty, mental illness, divorce, and life’s messiest messes:

Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb we love. 12248635_1238736879476513_990288516_n

 

 

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All a Miracle

Two size 10 Sketchers pad the concrete as I try and tread away from stingy tears of disappointment & noose-like arms  of depression. Wet leaves coated in moonlight drip tears onto my hair, the tops of my ears, the cool metal of my eyebrow ring.

Pain shoots through my broken heart. Why did I get the damn eyebrow ring? I couldn’t see it then but now I know: self-mutilation stuck through epidermis with a ball on either side. Memories that wouldn’t stay buried, brought to life by words that, sadly, met their intended target (my soul).

I come deep within myself, speaking to the Emmanuel whose breath is pressing against the egg shell that my walls have become;

these deep fortifications that Truth has dug a tunnel under. Now I’m shaken.

Dare I invite a voice so deep that it scare the hell out of me? But this is hell and I’m tired of it. It was Monday and I had a panic attack. I stared at the lights on the Christmas tree until I could breathe again. It became Monday again and I stood with wind whipping my face hung over a bridge wondering if it was high enough to kill me fast. 7 days of desperation in between.

The urge is real, and it surprises me. I might actually climb the rail and jump. Not for an adrenaline rush. For an end. So that I can stop hurting & being hurt. Because surely redemption roots can’t reach this far.

Desperation, when it is directed towards Jesus, is an expression of faith. ~Jack Moraine

The water churns, like memories of how I have failed, how I have hurt those I love most dearly. The men who have pinned their lust & self-loathing on me. The women who have hardened their hearts against me. These regrets that I will always live with (this eyebrow ring probably the least of them). The tension that arises in relationships when money is mentioned. The foreboding sense that it is always my fault. Broken sexuality that surfaces in inconvenient interactions.

Hey.

Wait. Back up.

I get to live.

The force of my being won’t be spent hurling itself over the rail of this bridge. This is not how I want my story to end. This is not how I want the next chapter to begin. The chemicals in my body scream out against health & sanity. My fingers tense and curl as my soul threatens to cave in on itself. My fingertips brush the rail. I don’t step back because I want to choose. I want to make the choice to live. I won’t live by default another minute. I won’t drag my soul along behind.

I want to live on purpose.

I want to give 110% to my relationships.

I want to forgive & be forgiven.

I want to see reconciliation come after I fail again & again.

I want to believe in the Lord who lived to die to know me.

Reconciliation.

The difference is made there in one word. I am reconciled to God. We are friends again. He isn’t mad at me. He likes me. SO much that I don’t have to cover my head with a blanket or hide behind a plate while he reads my poems. I am the glorious & rich inheritance chosen by my Beloved, this God. His light cracks the egg shell around my soul & the flame has a beautiful whipping sound like a candle within a round glass vase. Fed by the oxygen of grace, lit by two sparks–gifts–of faith & peace.

Grace is God working. Grace is God working. He is (actively!) caring for the ones I care about. My relationships will not be defined by my failures. The work of reconciliation has been done. Jesus did it. Light is chasing me. He will go through every creative avenue to speak with me. My thickest walls can’t keep out the light of his love, the joy of new life.

Through a friend in Colorado leaving me a message with a hum of background noise, telling me that Jesus talked to him about a girl named “Lydia” & how (falsely) eternal the temporary darkness can seem, yet how everlasting his love for her is.

A friend of a friend, thousands of miles away, worships on her bathroom floor. There she asks God how she can learn more about being a light. And he whispers my name to her. My name? It’s on His lips.

He speaks to me–when I can’t hear him for the oppression of my negative thought patterns–through a children’s book written over 60 years ago;

“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Trust. I can trust him. He isn’t privileged. He isn’t insincere. I can let my guard down in His presence. He sees my humanity and weighs my soul carefully. He’s stood on the edge himself. So I bury my hand in His mane.

“It is he, not you, that will save….” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Exhale. Trust them to him.

“There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.”~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The mane grows again. The mane always grows again.

Trust me to Him? Trust me to him. Remember? Remember his ways of mercy and grace. Remember that the dehumanizing voices aren’t his. Remember that the lies stirring turmoil within me are the opposite of his voice. Remember that he roars. That the Lion of Judah conquers those voices.

“10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth—he accused them day and night before our God. 11 They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him.”~Revelation 12:10-11

The accuser–ever-present within me–will be cast down. The Good News is good news. For all. Oppressed & oppressor. Sisters & brothers. And for this confused twenty-two year old, whose whole life will be a healing journey (eye brow piercing and all), there is good news. Because of my friend named Jesus (also called Love) the pain is carving out space for more joy. This I choose to believe.

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.~Isaiah 9:1a

…and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory  of God and from his power…~Revelation 15:8b

Deep inhales of smoke from his glory expand the lungs of my soul. Water pools in upturned leaves like truth fills the cracks of my broken heart. Moonlight baptizes me in frothy whiteness. My Skechers tap out rhythms of endurance all the way back to my car.

Merry Christmas, friends. (the solemn, holy, bright-light-in-darkness kind)

Rebelde

Rebelde

A poem

 

Where is justice?

Roars the tiger inside

 

Dare they push economic, political refugees

Across the planet, homeless as veterans on American streets?

 

Licking and sticking stamps onto envelopes with empty bellies

Food money suddenly sliced by sixty percent

 

Inability to understand black life matters

White lies passing lips over crystal glass

 

Brown life matters, running from terror

Towards abyss laced with trauma, thin veil of hope

 

Deep discontent with matters of white life

No one is less yet the lies leap logic

 

 

Father God where is justice as I cry in the bathroom,

Scratchy towel strands against my bare skin

 

Physical vulnerability drawing pictures in my head

The wounds young soul received

 

Barbed-wire scratching age-lines in fabric

Old before her time, supple not sour

 

Gasping for air, head just out of water,

Tigress down stream of pain

 

He lay, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe

Choke hold of injustice closing throat forever

 

Never shot, police; never chased, border patrol

The injustice is personal, mi alma, my soul.

 

 

 
….she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy…. ~John 16:21b