Two hours of comp time — that’s what I’d earned and was supposed to use up before payday. I’d made a middle-of-the-afternoon sips-and-chat date with a girlfriend, but when her schedule locked up and she couldn’t get away, I decided to just take the time as “me” time instead. The past few weeks have been hectic and I haven’t had time to process everything going on, so I grabbed my kleenex, an old journal, and headed to as much of an “alone” space as I could find in the middle of the city. A local park, where I could sit and look at what I’ve decided is my favorite old tree in the city and the nannies pushing their charges on swings while simultaneously talking on cell phones.
That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately.
It took me a while to realize it. I’ve been so busy waking and sleeping, working and playing, exercising and resting, reading and writing and editing and living, that somehow I missed it. And then I got an email from Pedro — a pastor I met and worked with in the mission field in the Dominican Republic. And then, I got some emails from Jim — a pastor/translator I met and worked with in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It just seemed odd to me — why would these men, whom I haven’t seen or talked to in years email me now?
God’s answer was quick and it sucked all of the air out of the room: “You symbolize hope to them.”
I answered just as quickly. “But God, how could I?” And I looked around the dark closeness of my bed that night and realized that hope hadn’t been there with me in a while.
It’s not that I’m depressed, desperate, or suicidal. Those are places I’ve been before and am familiar with. I’m not there. And I can’t even say that I’m sad. But something’s missing and I was so busy staying busy that I didn’t realize it until I was faced with it.
I really wasn’t going to talk about this here. I don’t have it all ironed out. The emotions are still raw and the answers aren’t tied up in pretty bows yet. But then Rick (from Planned Peasanthood) got on Facebook and said, “Hey, you’re overdue for a blog post.” So, here it is, Rick. Chaotic, unfinished, unrighteous, and unlovely.
So, what’s the something that’s missing? I’m still working on that, but one look at Twitter gave me one of my answers.
I love Louie Giglio, but his tweet made me furious.
“The Church is the plan.”
The anger rose up inside of me and I almost tweeted him back, even knowing that he’d never respond. I wanted to say, “Yeah, well, what does one do when The Church rejects them?!” But before I could tap it into my Android, my anger quelled enough to recognize that the problem isn’t just that simple. There are loads of churches who would love to have my name on their rolls, my money in their offering plates, and my hips in their nurseries to hold their babies.
Here’s the problem: How do I find a church who wants to be my FAMILY and not just my taskmaster? How do I find a church who wants my hang-ups and screw-ups as much as they want my tithe? How do I find a church who is willing to take my errors, doubts, and questions, as well as my gifts, experiences, and wisdom? THAT is the church I need. But how do I find it?
I think that one of the reasons I lost hope and slid into auto-pilot mode is because I feel like most people won’t understand where I’m at, and so I don’t talk about it. I just push it into a corner. For the first time in my life, the majority of people I interact with, love, and am close to are unchurched. It doesn’t change how much I love them, but it’s hard to imagine that people who don’t want to go to church will understand that my heart is aching because I can’t find a church to go to. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit for understanding me. Maybe I’m self-protecting because I’m afraid of being misunderstood and rejected. It’s hard to find hope in the midst of fear.
Tonight, there are no easy answers. Just hard questions… And a little flicker of hope.