That’s what you seem to be saying, Church.
I tried to share my heart with you; the heart of me and thousands and thousands of people like me who are walking away, to let you know of the damage you’re doing and the painful legacy you’re leaving, and apparently; you’re not the problem.
(Which of course, is still a problem).
I’ve relayed my frustration with your insider, religious rhetoric, and you responded by cut-and-pasting random Scripture soundbytes about the “Bride of Christ” and the “blood of the Lamb”, insisting that the real issue is simply my Biblical ignorance and suggesting that I just need to repent and get a good Concordance (whatever that is).
I let you know how judged and ridiculed I feel when I’m with you, how much like a hopeless, failing outsider I feel on the periphery of your often inward, judgmental communities, and you proceeded to tell me how “lost” I am, how hopelessly “in love with my sin” I must be to leave you, reminding me that I never really belonged with you anyway.
In the face of every complaint and every grievance, you’ve made it clear that the real issue, is that I’m either sinful, heretical, immoral, foolish, unenlightened, selfish, consumerist, or ignorant.
Heck, many days I’m not even sure I disagree with you.
Maybe you’re right, Church.
Maybe I am the problem.
Maybe it is me, but me is all I’m capable of being right now, and that’s where I was really hoping you would meet me.
It’s here, in my flawed, screwed-up, wounded, shell-shocked, doubting, disillusioned me-ness, that I’ve been waiting for you to step-in with this whole supposedly relentless, audacious “love of Jesus” thing I hear so much about, and make it real.
Church, I know how much you despise the word tolerance, but right now, I really need you to tolerate me; to tolerate those of us, who for all sorts of reasons you may feel aren’t justified, are struggling to stay.
We’re so weary of feeling like nothing more than a religious agenda; an argument to win, a point to make, a cause to defend, a soul to save.
We want to be more than a notch on your Salvation belt; another number to pad your Twitter posts and end-of-year stat sheets.
We need to be more than altar call props, who are applauded and high-fived down the aisle, and then forgotten once the song ends.
We’ve been praying for you to stop evangelizing us, and preaching at us, and fighting us, and judging us, and sin-diagnosing us, long enough to simply hear us…
… even if we are the problem.
Even if we are the woman in adultery, or the doubting follower, or the rebellious prodigal, or the demon-riddled young man, we can’t be anything else right now in this moment; and in this moment we need a Church big enough and tough enough and loving enough, not just for us as we might one day be then—but for us as we are, now.
We still believe that God is big enough, and tough enough, and loving enough, even if you won’t be, and that’s why even if we do walk away, it doesn’t mean we’re walking away from faith; it’s just that faith right now seems more reachable elsewhere.
I know you’ll argue that you’re doing all these things and saying all these things because you love and care for us, but from the shoes we’re standing in, you need to know that it feels less like love and care, and more like space and silence:
If someone is frustrated, telling them that they’re wrong to be frustrated is, well, pretty freakin’ frustrating.
It only breeds distance.
If someone shares that their heart is hurting, they don’t want to hear that they’re not right to be hurt.
It’s a conversation-stopper.
If someone tells you they are starving for compassion, and relationship, and authenticity, the last thing they need is to be corrected for that hunger.
It’s a kick in the rear on the way out the door.
So yes, Church, even if you’re right, even if we’re totally wrong; even if we’re all petty, and self-centered, and hypocritical, and critical, and (I’ll say it), “sinful”, we’re still the ones searching for a place where we can be known and belong; a place where it feels like God lives, and you’re the ones who can show it to us.
Even if the problem is me, it’s me who you’re supposed to be reaching, Church.
So, for the love of God—reach already.
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