part two:: the things that grow in wounds
As with all major restorations that God has breathed into the church, including the Reformation, there is always controversy and potential for the movement itself to become a religious ideal. Same goes with the truth of the mystical body of Christ, and all the ideas and new teachings attached to it. We are in the midst of great changes and many movements but we all have to make room for fresh metaphors, because all the current movements, even the freshest ones, around this truth contain *seeds* that God has planted. These seeds are going to grow into something much bigger. We have to be very patient with each other as He begins to draw out his own connections.
When I was 21 I decided to become a vegetarian after reading a very powerful book written about the effects of the meat industry on animals and capitalism. At the time I only knew 2 people who were vegetarians–only one grocery store near the university carried one shelf with vegetarian-friendly items. There were no veggie burgers, because the vegetarian craze and health-food industry had not yet bloomed to the extent that it has. Needless to say, I had a hard time translating my decision to friends and especially my family who all thought I was slightly wacky. But I also felt very passionate about it–so I preached the gospel of going meatless everywhere I went.
I remember one night having a passionate argument with another Christian friend, explaining to him that in the garden Adam and Eve didn’t eat meat and so therefore, we were supposed to get back to that. Ok, so you can laugh, but I really did believe it!! I was very convinced! The argument got so heated that I really offended him at one point and he got really defensive. I felt not a little bit like a zealot… I liked being like that, but I realized it was a little alienating. I stayed a vegetarian for six years but I got a lot less legalistic about it. I realize now in retrospect that I was young and discovering something new, something I never heard about. It was a radical shift in living and eating that seemed much more profound than the conventional ways of eating, the ways I had grown up with.
When we discover something new–some revelation of truth that has been missing–it starts to radically shift the way we view things. Most of us tend to go in extremes in this new-found stuff, and we can end up making a religion out of it… this stops us from growing further and allowing God to transform and mature our understanding. These habits continue in the church as God reveals and restores things that have been missing in his people. Whole movements and denominations have arisen around restored truths and then became dry and lifeless, or controlling, because of these habits. We start preaching the gospel of this new truth, instead of letting the spirit continue to change our understanding and grow us. None of us have arrived.
It is very easy for pride to grow in these excited extremes–especially in the place of our wounds. Those of us on the edge have a tendency to look at those “back there” and get really frustrated with the way things are going there. Out of hurt or woundedness, we may judge people who are not accepting the things we have been shown, or the way we have chosen to follow Christ. Our woundedness is an insecure open sore that lets pride flow in. I have had to really learn how to forgive the parts of the church that frustrated or rejected me–and God ESPECIALLY uses rejection as a way of growing spiritual maturity in people. We are called to love the whole body, not just one part. If we fear the opinions of others–their rejection or their acceptance–we continue to judge them and applaud ourselves.
A little bit of personal on this one… God’s really had to work and knead in a love for the body in me. I grew up in what some may call a fundamentalist denomination. I went to a Bible college that was pretty strict. As far as theology goes, it was pretty conservative… As soon as college was over, frustrated by a lot of the inconsistencies and conservativeness, I took the first train out of dodge, so to speak, and spent a few years going to charismatic-y non-denominational churches and house churches. The gifts of the spirit were big news to me. But after awhile I got tired of it. Then I took a big train out of Dodge and stopped going to any kind of church. At the time I was really depressed and confused about my life, but I was also very angry at the church because I felt like there were so many hypocrasies.
This is a familiar situation for a lot of people, I know, but even after I came back to God and tried church again, I was always still expecting the church to live up to some kind of standard and at the same time trying to prove myself to it. I could write a whole book about my ins and outs with church, but basically I had gotten hurt by religion but I never learned how to love the people behind it.
It has been a long and also very gracious process… I have learned to pray for and love people that are in types of churches I used to really make fun of. I really realized that I had no right to judge any part of the church, but also the judgment in my heart was still letting religion have its way. I still felt a little pang of self-satisfaction when I looked at others who were seemingly so clueless.
The Lord really convicted me of this and showed me that the way to fight accusation was through intercession and blessing. One day when I was leafing through a book that I found simplistic and kind of presumptuous in its doctrine, the Lord immediately stopped me and had me meditate on the author. He showed me her calling and then asked me to release blessing into her life–and as I prayed I felt this incredible stream of blessing and also new revelation to the author go out. At the same time I also experienced a love and also a freedom in my own heart. It was soooo nice. I am not perfect in this, but I keep asking the Lord to convict me instantly when I lean toward judging another so that I can come to him for forgiveness.
If we never let him form a love for the body in us and forgiveness for the parts that hurt us, there will always be that little space in us where the enemy can run rampant with his accusatory voices–and a space that rejects the church he would like to make around you. Pride is the number one source of religion. And it can flow in old things and new things–it is all about what’s inside of me and you.
I write seriously about this because I have experienced a lot of people being very angry at the church–whether it’s the church of their past, or the state of the church in general.
Some of us just can’t stand being near churches or even other Christians at this time. And you know what? That’s ok, too. God’s not giving you the guilt hammer. But He would like to bring you together with others whom He designed you to be near, if He hasn’t already. As one of my favorite writers said, you will not be able to love the church unless you see it from a heavenly perspective. In other words, you won’t be able to love Her until you see her as she will be, not as she is now. Obviously things are not perfect, and people have hurt you. People hurt me, too, and it did take me some years before I was married to accept the fact that He actually liked it when I was around other Christians.
We have got to be real about our rejections and frustrations with the church–and ask Him to come and form love in there… or else the wound just stays open and crusty, and we end up forming church around our wounds.
So even the best ideas, or the most progressive revelations around church life, can still be based on hurt and pride… as he continues to show us who the church is, we have to stay open to his dynamic way of moving, and also forgiving of those who have hurt us.
ok, so I’ll stop here… more coming. Just felt like addressing the wounded part first because it is THE major blockade to understanding who our church is.