Clearly I write from a position of someone who sits near the exit. I love church, but sometimes I find it exhausting. I love my weirdo burner friends, and sometimes they can be a little harsh on my faith. I long to be in Christian community, yet, depending on the community, I find myself itching to get out. I am finding that there are hidden moments of grace ready for the taking in all kinds of communities. And when I am willing to exercise a little humility and receive it, I find that that grace goes further than the edges of my life, and often finds its way into the open wild.
1). No wonder the door won’t open. I am already inside.
I belong here, even if others scowl, which it can be disappointing to find out they do. In fact, everyone who steps through the doors is in the same situation. We are faulty. Let’s all join the club. Others might find it easier to put on a front. None of us will be able to keep up appearances if we are really seeking God. If we are not, well, that has a way of working itself out sometimes, too. If I don’t always fit the exact culture of the community I am walking into, then I know what it is to need grace. I know it enough to love whatever part of you that is trying. I am trying, too.
2) I push too hard on the ‘pull’ handle
I spend so much of my time distinguishing myself from others, especially if I don’t want to be like them, that I find it is not other really people’s judgment of me that is keeping me at the margins. It is mine. It is easy to forge an identity by announcing to other people who I am – and who I am not like. We tell people, I am Blue not Red. I go to tea parties, and I do not occupy. Well, that may be good to know, but I still haven’t really told anyone much about who I am. I, like everyone, have a story long before my state has a color. I work so hard at telling people to love me as I am, I forget how to love them as they are.
It is an enemy of grace for me to try to defend myself. When I act defensive I am just telling others that I have something to prove, and they need to change before I do. The very nature of grace is that I don’t have anything to prove first. None of us do. None of us can.
Approaching others on the defensive may feel safe, but it’s no different than trying to feel safe by keeping up appearances. It is “safe” in the same way as mocking other people’s convictions I do not like. That kind of “safe” rarely gets things done.
3) Who said anything about a door?
Once again, my imagination is too small. This is true not only for how I view myself, but also true of how I see others and their ability to grow and learn. There is love where I can not see it, grace where I have not looked. Sometimes in shocking places.
I tend to have the greatest impact on people’s lives when I am willing to commit and love people who are not very excited about loving each other. There is my band of atheists, hippies and wack-a-doodle art mongers. And there is my Bible-reading, habit-wearing, prayer-meetin’ p0t-luck experts who are sometimes genuinely afraid of my other friends. It is much less what I do, than whose hands I am holding that will be my legacy.
At the end of the day, I don’t get to choose whom I love. As a follower of someone willing to become human, even though it meant people would kill him, I do not get to choose. God will have the final say.
Maybe the impossible just takes a little while.
One of my dearest friends has parents that, in theory, would never approve of my life, my struggles, and my choices. They know it and I know it. Nevertheless, when they come to town they seek me out, and I am eager to see them They have bought me dinner (in my book always a sign of love), shared intimately their spiritual lives with me, and simply called me friend. It is a friendship that moves me deeply because even for us just to be willing to be together, is an act of forgiveness…an impossible forgiveness.