For some of you the title of this is a little frustrating (for some of you who know me better, it’s really frustrating). You’re tired of hearing about church here, about how I can’t seem to make it exist. You’re tired of hearing me throw around words like community and sanctification so glibly, like I understand them. I understand, because I’m tired of it, too.
I tried to explain that it’s like I’m being clubbed in the head with a bat (or maybe a dull axe that will leave me some kind of nearly-headless ghost). That I would prefer a swift execution, neat with a corpse to bury and a soul that is finally free. I would prefer something sharp, to the point, and efficient. But I am so stubborn and so angry and so ugly. There are days I look back on and wonder why God bothers, to be honest.
So, instead I’ve been hit in the stomach so many times. By the words of friends and family here and not here. All of whom love me. All of whom are right. They’re telling me I can’t keep up the apathy. That I can’t keep up the selfishness. That I have to be the change I want in my own life, if I’m too wrapped up in me to care about the change in the world (and I am. Let’s make no mistake about that).
She is so persistent that I go and turn in a form that says I will do something other than hide in my room and watch New Girl that I actually do. I drive there in my car, turn in the paper, and run by the nearby mall for two seconds. I throw up in a trashcan in the middle of the food court. I prayed for the church to touch me, but I guess I was hoping for a caress instead of a punch to the stomach.
Which goes to show that we don’t know what we need.
I think about the Great Divorce. About the lizard on the man’s shoulder who whispered lies. It had to die, painfully and brutally. But it had to die. Reading it, I’m prone to laugh at the silly ghost who can’t see that. Until I look down and see that I am totally transparent. That I am pierced and destroyed by the realness of the Church. That the accountability and community and sanctification are like the stick in the book, and I could work for a year the way I am now and never pick them up and make proper use of them.
We are supposed to be becoming solid. But I sit on my own shoulder, hissing lies into my ear. I block my ears to the words that might save me. And I know it will hurt terrifically.
But I have to die. I have to kill off all of these scaly pieces of myself, if I can ever hope to do more than stand at the edge of the life God has brought me to.
The church is killing me. It is pushing me outside of the things I want to do. It is speaking the truth when the truth is sharp. It is unsettling, uncomfortable, and inconvenient.
And I wake up, for a second, underneath it all. Open my eyes for the first time in months. I apologize. Over and over again. I wake up, and see that the monster is big, and I am small. See that maybe I ought not to have listened to Eminem and befriended him. And I hear the church still, hacking away at it.
The church is killing me. I will almost certainly not survive.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (from 2 Corinthians 4)
It is a parasitic growth, and neither can live while the other survives. If my soul is going to live, if it is going to crawl outside selfishness and apathy, I am going to have to die. I must decrease, and He must increase. Because my life should be forfeit to Him, anyway.
So when I say the church is killing me, understand that I mean it with a frightened kind of gratitude. With a fearful kind of apology. I’ve known this for so long. That it was inevitable. That so much could not survive. But I’ve gotten so confused. I’ve fallen in love with the parasite sapping myself of all my energy and passion and love for anything other than myself.
When I say the church is killing me, I hope you will hear it as a whisper “Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy”.
Thank you, and I’m sorry.