In the Raw: Journey of Churches

I’m folding laundry this time. I seem to do the best thinking when my hands are busy doing mundane things.

My arms reaching out to pick up a towel. Familiar motions and soon it is folded. Another towel and anther. My body working in harmony.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a slow movement and without thinking my body snaps into action to prevent precious clean laundry from falling on the floor.

Instinct. Familiarity. Harmony. The Body.

Each member doing its job to the absolute best of its ability; instinctively. Hands, Feet, Head, Arms, Ears, Mouth, Eyes… not one part telling the other how to do its job. The Body functioning as it should.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on ecclesiology. The study of the church belongs to wiser minds than mine.

However, experience has taught me a few things. ​

My earliest memory of church:
A huge bright room with tall stained glass windows. Coloring pictures at a half-moon table. Sitting with my parents on red velvet stadium seats while listening to the historic pipe organ belting out Great is Thy Faithfulness.

My next memory:
Having my picture taken outside in the sunshine with my parents and sister on the day my father was ordained as pastor.

Being “The Pastor’s Older Daughter” and all that entails: knowing more Bible trivia, being the fastest in Sword Drills, being bossy knowing most people won’t tell me no, never breaking a rule that anyone would know. In AWANA, hearing how even my rule-keeping couldn’t do a thing for me in God’s eyes. Deep conviction and salvation.

Sitting in a volatile church business meeting and hearing the accusations and tears and shouts.

Junior High:
Moving across the country and knowing not one person, yet discovering paradise. A small country church who tithed in eggs, milk, produce, beef/pork. Being a small-town “Pastor’s Daughter”… busybodies taking it upon themselves to be their own journalists. Looking up from the long wooden pews as my father preached from a tall pulpit.

Once again, hearing accusations and pride and this time having to leave my beloved mountains. Burning anger at God and flashing rage at the Elders who made the decision.

Another move across country, a half-hearted attempt at trying to build relationships in a youth group. A youth pastor who later was arrested for preying on the girls in his care.

Another youth group my Junior/Senior year of high school. A youth pastor who took it upon himself to make me laugh and who left an indelible mark on my life. The very first time I understood what worship was: Songs from the Loft, hands raised, delighting in who God is.

After College:
Huge church. Huge young adults group. Learning more about how to worship with abandon, pouring my soul out.

After Marriage:
Much smaller church. Young marrieds group. Feeling very out of place as a new wife who left all of her life for this man. Learning to open up and not just sit back in safety and observe. Kids will force you to do that; three of them even more so. Eventually plugging in and serving and then eventually burning out.

Now:
Almost 4 years and friendships are still few. Tries to connect backfired too many times. Serving and learning how a team is so key in avoiding burn-out. Thankful for all-out-top-of-my-lungs-hands-up-high worship.

As you can see, there is so much baggage in my past with churches. Trusting leadership is a struggle; cynicism too easy. Yet. I know this Body, while broken and unharmonious most of the time, is what God uses to show His power in this world.

How? I don’t know. Grace. I think.

He gives us grace and somehow we hold each other to our own grace-less standards. Disappointment grows until it covers the original problem and can’t even be seen. Risking grace with each other deflates the disappointment to actually deal with the problem.

Grace can be a risk, but it is a risk a bloody man on a cross gave up his life to give me. I am obligated to risk such precious grace with others.

How do you overcome the tension in your church journey and come the place of risking grace for others?

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