Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why we're not enough to fix the church (but God is)

The page lies open large and white as the snowy landscape outside the window.  I sit, waiting for words to come, wondering if there is anything left to say.  There's so much noise already, the background sounds of Panera, and the loud cell phone conversation of the mom arguing with her son over a phone bill.  Perhaps such a conversation would be more helpful (and less ironic) in person.

I write to process my feelings, and yet the numbness defies words.  I'm grieving the loss of the familiar and fearing changes that will come as our church adjusts and fills the hole of our resigning pastor.  It leaves me struggling again to find my place in the church and brings back former hurts.  My last blog post on leaving the church seemed to hit a chord with so many people, and I understand that church has been a cause of so many scars.  And yet, I still believe in it (Lord, I believe...help my unbelief).  I believe in the power of church when I see how my children connect with other adults like a second family.  I believe in the way we carry one another's burdens, checking up on those who are sick and taking meals to those who are down.  I believe in the way we can share our deepest sorrows and joys and have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I know that it's not always this way, of course.  We lose our focus on the community and seek out our own needs.  We feel hurt, betrayed, or ignored when we don't receive what we think we deserve.  We get tired of always being the one who says "yes" and resent the ones who say "no".  We forget the message of Jesus who was willing to die so that we might understand God's promise of love and life.  We neglect to offer that love to everyone and think we can be the judge of who is deserving (and who is not).

Sometimes I get sucked in by the lie of "not enough".  I'm not strong enough to hang on; I'm not skilled enough to make a difference.  I believe the church doesn't have enough to fix all that is broken.  And I guess that's true.  It's been proven time and time again through failure.  But my big mistake is believing that it's all about me, that it's all about anyone except for God.  As hard as I try, I'm not enough in myself.  As much potential as it has, our church is not enough with just the members.  As she is quick to remind us, a pastor (even one as fabulous as our departing one) cannot save a church.  It is only through God that we are enough; that we were created in God's image with gifts, passions, and love to use in healing a broken system and a fallen world.  It is only because of Jesus' sacrifice that we understand the sacrificial love that is necessary to die to ourselves and find our higher purpose in serving others.  It is only through the presence of the Spirit that we are reminded, again and again, that God is in this place with us, creating holy ground right beneath our feet.

I'm reminded that we don't have to be enough, because God is.  In fact, his very name that he shared with Moses was "I AM".  I was reading Rob Bell's Tumblr series about the Bible yesterday and he was sharing about the covenant that God makes with Abraham in Genesis 15.  Covenants were common in that period, and were signified by an animal sacrifice with the two parties walking through the animal that had been cut in two.  But in this covenant, God is the one who walks through, showing that God pledges to uphold the covenant, regardless of what Abraham does.  We see this again and again in the Bible: God reaches out to God's people and they obediently follow for a while, but inevitably fail and turn away from God.  But God reaches out over and over, giving them a new chance.  That is love, and that love is grace enough for us hang onto as we continue to make our messy way through life.

When we feel like we're not enough, when we believe that the church is not enough, it's okay.  We don't have to be, because God is, and with God dwelling within us, we are enough, too.  In fact, we become the very church that God calls us to be.

See the third part of this series here.

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