Someone told me today that she just couldn’t take it anymore. We left the church. Not just one church but THE church. All churches. She just couldn’t take the way people treated each other. Black (this woman was white) or gay (she was also straight). She experienced the ugliness of humanity. She can get that anywhere. So she left.
I mourn because she’s right. We are ugly to one another. But what I mourn over just as much isn’t that we find this in the church, its that the church isn’t telling the right story.
We get the ending right. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4b) And we get the beginning right, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2) But somehow we get the middle of the story wrong. Between this emptiness and new order is a life of creation, creativity, abundance, brokenness, pain, redemption, brokenness, reconciliation, brokenness, grace..a bunch of stuff. A bunch of stuff that is part of the process of becoming holy but not being quite there yet.
It is a strange feeling to sit in the space between moving onto perfection in love and being a broken soul in need of healing. The exciting parts to tell are when we move forward. The embarrassing parts are when we move backward. But both happen. And both need to be told.
The church isn’t a place to go to when we’ve been made perfect in love. The church is a place where we gather because we know we are in the process of being made perfect and we can do that faster and more efficiently when we work together. We move forward. But we also move backward. We are still in that cycle of brokenness and reconciliation. We can see the end, honor the beginning, but are stuck in the middle.
The middle isn’t bad or good. It just is. It allows us to see both the bad and the good at the same time. We get to experience the bad and the good at the same time. It takes us from “Once upon a time” to “happily ever after” on a journey that has both ups and down. Its never perfect. But with God’s grace it can move to perfection in love.
When the world feels broken and lost and full of hate and conflict, I recall that Jesus’ journey was far from easy. In fact it was ugly. But the ending is beautiful. It may not be here yet but with God’s help we can order our lives so that we move closer to that ending each day.