So, it turns out that life is messy.
Have you noticed?
At least mine is. I don’t always clean up after myself. I dump my answer-less questions all over the counters. I’m clumsy with my privilege, and leave chunks of it everywhere for people to trip over. When I get tired, I start throwing my hurt around the room.
But I learned to clean myself up for church. It wasn’t an explicit lesson, but every week I took off my childish tantrums or my teenage angst or my young adult questions and put on tights and patent-leather shoes and a big everything-is-ok smile.
The thing is, I should have known better. My churches were always welcoming to me, even when I inadvertently left a mess. I heard a gospel of transformative love and inclusion every week. I praise God for the loving parents, kind Sunday school teachers, and prophetic pastors that ultimately have helped me resist the gravity of the Sunday-best mask.
Theologian Lois Malcolm says that “The gospel isn’t about living an ideal. It’s that God came into our mess, even the mess of death, so that we can be liberated. The good news is that God is right in the middle of our issues.”
I pray that you’ve never tried to wrestle yourself into tidiness to go to church, but in my listening during the #MyKindaChurch project, I’m learning that many people have. The folks who are sharing their dreams with us are sick of shoving their complicated realities into closets and tucking their big questions behind pious smiles. They’ve picked up the idea, just like I had, that that’s what they have to do to come to church. And some of them just aren’t willing to do that anymore. They want something different, and until the church can prove to them that their mess is welcome, they’re staying out. Can you blame them?
Listen to them:
Jenny says “My kind of church would be where anyone is welcome, accepted for who they are and the mistakes they have made.”
AJ says “I want a church where imperfection like me can just exist and find community.”
Shaivaughn says “No, contrary to popular belief, I am NOT required to “leave all my mess at home.”
I hear you. And I, for one, am redoubling my efforts to keep church messy. It’s in our messiness, I believe, that we can really meet each other. And it’s in our messiness that we meet Christ.