I have begun contemplating our faith, my faith and yours, and the joint faith of the Church, the historical, universal, body of Christ, bride of Christ, Church. I feel at times somewhat lost in the church (to be clear, I will use church, small c, for the local church, and Church, capital C, for the Church as a whole, the body to which all true Christians are a part.) I feel lost because I see so many things that are lacking, whether in practice or in doctrine, in seriousness, or in trivializing the sacred. I long for a reverence that is without the legalism I grew up with, I long for a church that gives and loves, AND has the depth in teaching.
So often it seems that the church is about silly things, concerning itself with how people dress, but not concerning itself with the spiritual growth of its people. The church is more concerned with outward things, it seems. I know many people who are more concerned about whether someone has a glass of wine, than whether people gossip, with whether someone smokes, than whether they love their children, with someone’s politics rather than their theology and with whether we are becoming more like Christ.
I struggle with these things. I’m selfish (no, really, ask my husband and my kids), I can be short-tempered and irritable, I let loose with a swear word or three on occasion, and I’m not as careful about what I watch as I ought to be. In my younger years I never swore, was super careful about what I watched and read, but my heart toward people was often cold and bitter. I had no real concept of my own sin and need of a savior. Oh, I HAD a savior, but in a lot of ways, I did not really recognize my need of him. I knew I needed fire insurance, and I was pretty sure I was an awful person, but in the day to day living of life, I thought I was doing okay. I didn’t drink, I didn’t swear, I didn’t have anything to do with people who didn’t live pristine lives…I was a jerk. I was a holier-than-thou, self-righteous JERK.
I could not see my own sin and my own errors for my mind was twisted. I’m sure there are parts that are still twisted, but God has graciously been untwisting my thoughts, my attitudes, my heart and my doctrine. He seems to untwist a bit at a time, probably because to untwist it all at once would be too much of a shock to the system. “How did she die, doctor?” “Well, she got her mind all straightened out in a single second and it was simply too much for her heart.” Plus, I must assent to each bit of untwisting of my thoughts. God points out my errors, my sins and I must repent and change, I must give up the past, the wrong-headed thinking and choose a new path.
I’m not sure if this is making sense to anyone but me, but I had a seriously twisted mind. There are many reasons, but the result was a helpless, hopeless, nearly incoherent mess of an individual, so warped and misshapen that I could rearrange any person and any situation in my own thoughts and find their evil intent and motive. I could logically explain to you why the seemingly normal and innocuous things person did were evil and corrupt, mean and vindictive. I was unaware that I was doing this, but God showed me and then he gently began unraveling my thoughts. Each thought had to be examined whether it be the truth or a lie. It was exhausting and took a long time. This is why I think I probably still have some thoughts to make straight.
You probably do too. Most of the time, we are too afraid to do this work, to look at our thoughts, to examine ourselves in this way. It’s painful, it’s difficult, and so worth it. The legalism I grew up with did not untwist the thoughts, but allowed me to twist into knots of epic proportions. It allowed me to look good on the outside but to be awful on the inside. It allowed me to look like a person of faith without BEING a person of faith.
This brings me back to my opening thoughts about the church. If the church is to be relevant, it cannot give up the reverence for the treasure we have been given. We must not try to be so relevant that we become nothing but lukewarm pablum, tasteless, useless and without merit. Our merit is in Christ. He is our Head. He is our Life. Far too often we mention Christ as a bullet point, and do not treat God our Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, somehow three in one, as meriting our worship, our devotion, our preaching, our teaching, our thoughts and our service. We mention God, but do not reverence God. We mention Easter, but do not devote even the single Sunday to the telling of the great mystery that is Christ and his death, burial and resurrection. Many churches do not treat communion with reverence and respect, missing the greatness, the holiness, the mystery in the sacrament.
I do not want to devote myself to the outward expressions of religion and of things which please the church, but I want my inward being to be aware of God at all times, to commune with him, to know his promptings, to hear his voice, to be comforted by his Spirit, to be conformed to the very likeness of Jesus Christ, the Son. I want to be in reverence to his holiness, to be humble enough to request his mercy, be thankful for his kindness, and patient with the trials that come my way. I want to ponder the meaning of the cross, the meaning of the sacrifice, the meaning of the incarnation, the meaning of the resurrection, the meaning of Jesus life here on earth, the meaning of the Old Testament, to understand how I am to behave toward God and toward others and to know how to allow His power to reign in me so that I might be more disciplined, more holy, more righteous, and have victory over sin. That I may know Him and the Power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering…without too much of the suffering, please.
So I am wondering about the Church through the ages and how it came to exist as it is today, disjointed, in pieces, fractured, so full of doctrinal differences that it could make one wonder if the church truly exists at all, or if the Scripture can possibly be true, given the way it’s followers behave.
But in it all, through it all, in the midst of doubts, I am convinced of this thing: That God Is, that God Saves, That His Son is Jesus the Christ who is also God, that he was born of a Virgin, that he died, was buried and rose on the third day and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. I am CONVINCED of the existence of God. I believe he is who he says he is. My difficulty begins after that. It begins with the arguing, the schisms, the conflicting doctrines. I am content with mysteries. I am not troubled by mysteries. I am troubled by us. I am troubled by interpretations that I cannot see when I read Scripture. I am troubled by falsehoods taught as truth, but more than all of that, I am troubled by the lack of reverence in the church and in my own heart.
I pray that God will teach me proper reverence and will forgive me where I lack, and I mourn that the church often does not teach PROPER reverence, but simply a form of it. I want the real deal.