Thursday, March 26, 2015

When Church Hurts - And a Giveaway



Claiming the Victory
excerpted from the original post, dated May 5, 2013
(click here to read its entirety)


My earliest years were wrapped up in a little village church, where everyone started as friends and became a family. It was a body of humble people - dairy farmers, groundskeepers, receptionists, carpenters, housewives. They perfected the carry-in lunch and someone always had extra when we forgot our own table service.

We sat in the pew - middle section - sometimes I sucked on the one in front of me. I can still taste the tang of the varnish. All I knew was that Jesus loved me. He loved me because they kept on telling me He did, and I trusted them, because they popped corn in the cooker well past dark on summer evenings and laughed with my parents until the whole room shook.

One day, when some might say I was too young to understand, I asked Jesus to live in me. Before long I had my gray Awana shirt and made it my mission to memorize the most verses so I could win the trophy.

Nothing ever stays as good as we think it should and before long, lots of adults got in the way, disturbing the tenuous balance of my universe, pitching me straight out of my safety net. 

My family left that church.
In my mind, that's where the trouble started.

It's been a long road between ages 8 and 37. My faith charts well outside the plot of a steady incline. It's marked with swells and dips, and maybe that's unavoidable. Maybe almost everyone would say the same.

Somewhere along the way, people stopped reminding me that Jesus loved me. I grew in years and it became more about what I should do than what had been done for me. I had the power to make Jesus sad, to incite God's wrath, to hurl a mountain into the ocean, or to prove my infant faith to everyone and doubt for one second - doubt anything, for any length of time. I could insist that I deserved great wealth, I could say one million times that he should be healed - that he was healed already.

I wonder if things could have been different if we had been allowed to see the quieter work of a God who transforms a life over time, by repeated exposure to the boldness of His love amid personal failure, by the simplicity and power of His word. Maybe then I wouldn't have walked into adolescence and adulthood with a cynic's view of Christianity and a penchant for disproving my own brokenness.

I can't bend time, but I have a hunch that it would have served me well to learn by repetition that God wanted me low, humble, needing much, clinging always and only to Him for survival.

Jesus loves me. He saved me because He knew I needed saving. He knows I'm destined for failure outside of Him, but spotless in His sight. I am a mess and so are the rest of His loves, but there's no end to his mercy. He screams and cheers and street-fights for me and He won't ever stop. He needs me to go to His people and He needs me to not care at all what it might cost.

Because to live in Him is gain. It's all there is. 

***

I'm sharing part of my "When Church Hurts" story today as part of a blog tour for Varina Denman's new book, Jaded.

"Jaded is a novel that will speak to anyone who has every gone through a hard church situation and lived to tell about it." - Jaded press release


Varina's team has kindly offered two copies to FPFG readers. Leave a comment to be entered! Tell me a church story or what you're wearing today or anything in between. I'm easy. :) Winners will also receive a bonus copy of Then Sings My Soul from Amy Sorrells.