Let it go.
When we lose the notion that church is heaven and all those who worship there are angels complete with halos and wings, then we actually begin to give something rather than get something. And that is what church is—the opportunity to give something.
What do we give? Oh, I’m not just talking about pitching a few bucks into a plate that has been passed. No, I’m talking about giving—or, more specifically—giving up who you are. Dying to self so that Christ can live in you (Galatians 2:20) is not a cliché or well-shellacked marketing ploy; this is the Real Deal. If we are to follow Christ, then our pride and our comfort have to go. Our sense of control has to leave, too. Humility is the goal.
And humility is the tough one, folks. Humility defined in church life today means one, your feelings don’t get hurt, two, your energies and efforts may not be recognized, and three, you do let go of past wrongs. This a zinger if you really heard what I just said.
Humility also doesn’t entitle an adult to act like a child, through a tantrum, or storm off because Something Didn’t Go Well. Yes, a church is a God-led entity and ideally yes, the church should be this perfect palace you seek as a shelter from the Big Bad World, but the reality is in the mirror when you see your face at the bathroom sink. Yeah. That’s you. Perfect and holy sometimes. Truly.
The angels, halos and wings that I mentioned in the first paragraph? That’s you.
This is also you, if you’re honest enough to go there. There is less than perfection in the person you see. No, don’t beat yourself up at this point. You’re built in the Father’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and yes, God did knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). You are a beautiful creation. I invite those of us who haven’t heard that in a while to let this sink in deeply.
Beautiful, we also struggle with sin. The more we journey with Christ, the more we experience old selfish behaviors dissolving, but that journey, since we are here on earth, is filled with sudden turns, potholes and places under construction. I’ve shared the following in this column before: we don’t want a Savior (although that would be nice); we need a Savior. This is not an option. This is a must. Why? Because we are total hot messes without our Jesus.
Though we are called to perfection (Matthew 5:48), sometimes we are even hot messes with our Jesus.
At least for a time.
A candid, honest twentysomething just wrote on a social media page her honest struggles with her faith over the last year. She quit not on God, but on herself with God. This faithful one wrote of the times she was faithless.
She also writes of Jesus being patient and present to her through her struggles. She is telling this Big Bad World that her struggles actually make (present tense) her faith stronger. What is under all her words (and humility) is what she let go of—which is her old self.
Our consumer-driven market has a lot to do with who and how we are today. The “What’s in it for me?” question permeates even (or maybe especially) into church life. And that can stop now. Let it go.
Pastors sin. Churches mess up. This should not keep you away but keep you even more present. Ask that twentysomething if Jesus ever left her and she’ll say no. So, why are we leaving Jesus alone in a church with flaws?
It is not “what’s in it for you,” it is what is in you—and what is in you is a God who calls you to humility and service not on your schedule, but in His complete service.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on January 8, 2020.