the problem with the church

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Urban legend has it that GK Chesterton was once asked what was wrong with the world, only to reply “I am.”

Whether this actually happened is beyond my desire to research, but you follow the sentiment.

I am.

What’s wrong with the church? With America? With my family?

I am.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted with excuses. I’m so incredibly tired of the cynical remark on the tip of my tongue, of the way I laugh like I enjoy the tension, the arguing. It’s me. I’m the problem.

I’m the one who believes deeply in peace, and who is getting a doctoral degree in healing and rehabilitation. I’m the one picking fights in the church lobby and making faces at people praying over sick and hurting friends. I’m the one who rages that I am not being taken seriously, and I’m the one scoffing at anyone with whom I disagree.

And the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. Daniel spent eight chapters raging against the fallen culture of his captors. He longed for his home, believing that if he could just leave the empire all would be well. Then, in chapter nine, he changes his tune. He begins to lament the ways his people have failed, and continue to fail. He starts to see that the problem is deep in his own heart. Whether in Jerusalem or Babylon, he is broken. And he cries “17 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.””

I call myself a Christian. I call myself a part of the body. I say proudly that I am made in His image. And I am so deeply broken. So undeserving.

I’ve been told too many times that I’m beautiful and strong and lovely. That I am fierce and precious and perfect. I am not. I am not those things; I am the problem. I am the nail in Jesus’ wrist. And I am anything but worth dying for…

…except maybe to one person…

…and I bear His name. Before all else. Before I call myself a woman or a therapist or a student or a citizen or a friend or a scholar or anything else, I bear the name of Christ. And yes, I have been redeemed by someone great. He has done an incredible amount to win my heart, but it is not because I am, of myself, worth much at all. It is because He has been incredibly gracious, and has given me all the things I could never deserve.

I am so easily prideful. I hold my head high and fight for my right to feel good, or to get what I want. I resist every imposition on my ‘rights’. When, actually, I’ve been the problem all along.

When it would rain and I was younger, I would run outside and grab every piece of trash I could find. I would bring them in the house, so they wouldn’t be washed away by the storm. Cigarette butts and empty bottles and Wal-Mart sacks. My mother would find them and try to throw them away, but I would cry because they were mine.

Maybe it’s like that. But the plastic sack isn’t precious because it’s beautiful or special or kind or smart…it’s just that it was rescued.

Am I rambling? Only to ask that you let me be broken over the ways I’ve failed. That you let me confess to you that I have done a great deal of harm in my crusade to be right, and to get what I want. That you let me stand up and say…

I have been the problem in the church. And aside from a divine rescue, I will not be much more. It is in this cracked moment that I begin to be repaired. Until I stand here and say it to you, I couldn’t believe it. And no one could help me.

And when He stares down at me, empty and tired, I feel His gaze and it breaks me. But I hear His voice…reminding me that I am in His image. That I bear His name. That I bear His gifts. He is so close to the broken. To the ones who have finally understood who He is and who they are. There will be times for disagreement. For honest discussion, and for realizing that we don’t all see things the same way. There will be times for correction and rebuke and forgiveness. But not like this. Not in this way I’ve been speaking, with this false impression of my own importance.

It is the most humbling thing, to call myself a Christian after all this. To call myself a lover of peace after so much fighting. To call myself a healer when I’ve hurt the people closest to me. But I don’t really have a better hope. I don’t have a better chance. His love, His rescue, are my only worth.

Jesus, remind me how great a grace it is…

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