Monday, July 9, 2012

Come Crying to Me

Eleven years ago I found myself face down in the gutter of a life I did not recognize. In truth, I didn't even ask for it. I didn't go looking for the trouble. I didn't understand it, didn't want it, couldn't walk away from it. The details are both hazy and razor sharp.

I chose the worst possible circumstance to abandon some of the control I had clutched until my fingers cramped. I came nose to nose with my own reality, my own heart, and denial was no longer an option. It got a little ugly.

So here I was, the Good Christian Girl who had never chosen wrong, and I was every way but right. Rebellion was intoxicating up until it was soul-asphyxiating.  The dust barely settled - just enough to see the outline of a wasted life - and I knew I needed help. I needed someone to tell me the truth about things, but mostly, I needed someone to hug me and promise not to stop until a little redemption came down.

I wracked my brain and cried in the shower for one person - just one - who would suspend judgment and help love me back to life.The first call I ended up making was to a dear friend who was in no way tied to a church. She told me to get my crap together, she reminded me she wasn't going away. It was the first little step on a long, long road.

I look back and see the evidence of my salvation written all over those darkest days. I see mercy. I see God street-fighting on my behalf. What I don't see is community. Maybe that's when church started to die for me; when, in my greatest need, I felt completely alone.

The blame is mostly mine. I chose to hide out. I had lived believing the lie that church was for good people who behaved. If you don't behave, you're not ready to be there. Of course we always said we knew we were sinners, but the church I knew was more comfortable with sins like gossip and gluttony, so I stayed away. 

What I know now is that there were plenty of people in my life who would have been exactly what I needed. The problem was, I was just as pre-conditioned as the next girl to feel a little smug in the face of sin. I couldn't bear the thought of sitting on the other side of that table. I had never been shown how to love a sister through the worst of herself, so how could they know? I wouldn't be the guinea pig.

I couldn't think of one single person of faith who had walked through a couple miles of crap and lived to tell. Not one.

What I know now is that there are many who walked a similar road, they just walked in silence. Like me. It's not an indictment on my friends, my family, my church. It's an indictment on every single one of us who pretends to have it all together when we're right on the edge of losing it. I had done it plenty of times before. I knew the drill.

We've taken an unsaid oath that once we are a Christian, we're done sinning. The problem with that is, well, the sin. It's still there. It's rapping at our windows and it's busting out the panes. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes, we make it easy and just open the door.

We live in shame, believing we're the only ones because not one of us wants to be the first to raise our hand. We struggle to locate the light, because there's no one there to help us find the switch. No one wants to defame the good name of the Church by admitting to being a human. The church likes aligning with Jesus for a long list of reasons, but mostly because he saved us. What about the everyday saving? 

The gritty stories are only acceptable when they come at the very beginning of the story, when they make for an exciting "conversion story". When the dirt flies in the middle, people get uncomfortable. No one knows how to deal.

Know what else happens? People outside the church take a look and know for sure that they don't belong. They know they can't run with us.  They don't have faith in our churchy answers and they feel our judgment even when we swear it isn't there. They see our masks and decide their odds are better going it alone. Because even if it all falls apart, at least they'll have their dignity.

So maybe there's one person out there who needs to hear this tonight. To you - to you - I say,  you were made for more than this mess you're in. I was right where you are, and grace is already holding out His hand. You cannot fix it on your own. You were never supposed to try. You are broken and so am I, but when we claw through life together, we're a little more whole. God uses mangy old you and me to spread His love around. Isn't that something?

I don't ever expect you to be perfect. I don't really trust you if you pretend to always be right.  I'm honored to be present for your failures, because I know first-hand that you'll never be the same. It's mad science, the way our greatest ugliness becomes the very thing that propels us further to beauty.  It's redemption, and it's not found in a certain building on a certain day. It's not found in theology or ritual. It's not buried beneath a pile of works.

It's found when we see that our only hope and all our promise is in Him.

It's waiting. For both of us.