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The Beautiful Mess

Recently I’ve been thinking about the Church.

To be completely honest with you, I haven’t felt like I was “home” at any church since I left for college eight years ago. My home church was all I knew, and I had no idea my entire perspective and experience with the church would change so much over the course of time. From my college years until now, I have visited several churches, become a “member” at another church, regularly attended a couple others, studied the Bible, studied the Church, led in the Church and recruited students to be the church and prepare to lead the church of the future.

It doesn’t seem as simple as when I was a child. I remember the days of the old hand-folding action: “Here is the church; here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.”

But maybe it still is that simple.

I’ve confused it. I’ve compartmentalized it. I’ve tried to classify types of churches and parts of them and there have been all of these lists and containers in my mind that have held ideas about the Church. And really, it all boils down to the people. There might be a steeple and a building, but the people are all that matter.

Some recent events in my home church and a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy have put some things into perspective for me.

Sadly, there are all too often occurrences of ministers who have failed their churches morally. Or maybe, I should say, they have failed their God. They fall to pornography, adultery, homosexuality and molestation (common in Catholic churches, it seems), or an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, no church is free from the attacks of Satan, and neither are people in ministry. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We know this. So why does it come as such a surprise when we find out that someone in ministry has failed? Too often those in ministry are put on a pedestal, much like we put celebrities on a false pedestal, and we expect to see perfection. When we see their failure, it appears more visibly because of the spotlight we’ve placed on their lives.

Needless to say, there are probably countless people going through what Britney Spears is experiencing, but only she is suffering from the whole world watching it happen … which surely won’t help her get through her circumstances. Similarly, there are leaders in companies, organizations and churches who fail. And as a result, those who once trusted, respected and followed these people are now impacted and confused by their behavior.

It makes me realize how critical every decision in life truly is. Every choice matters.

This past week I found out some truths about a minister at my home church that has led to his resignation and a torn family. Not only are families of the parties involved affected, but the church family is greatly affected. After a church meeting it felt like we were grieving the loss of a life, and it seems we are, in fact, grieving the loss of some spiritual aspect of life or one’s morality.

People are hurting. Those who have made poor choices are hurting. The church body is in pain, and it needs healing.

Somehow, in the disappointment of it all, I can see a glimmer of hope and beauty in the way the church comes together. Sadly, I’m sure that some members will leave and some will continue to tear it apart as much as they can with gossip, lies, and unending speculation. Some members will be discouraged and find themselves in doubt and distrust–possibly even a lack of faith. But somewhere in the mess of all of this, I believe that God is working, healing, maybe even performing “surgery” on this body of people to fix what needed to be fixed, to purge what was hurting the body, and to bring healing where healing is needed.

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And in the midst of this spiritual surgery, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the brilliant narration of Dr. Bailey’s voice on Grey’s Anatomy:

“As doctors, we know more about the human body now than at any point in our history. But the miracle of life itself; why people live and die, why they hurt and get hurt is still a mystery. We want to know the reason, the secret, the answer at the back of the book, because the thought of our being all alone down here is just too much for us to bear. But at the end of the day, the fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences, no matter what we believe, is reason enough to keep believing.”

That last line depicted for me exactly what the Church is and always should be. The fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences and beliefs, is reason enough to keep believing. It’s reason enough to keep living. We’re not alone. And no one is perfect. Everybody hurts sometimes. (Enter R.E.M.)

As I reflected on the situation at my home church and how so many kinds of people are a part of the Church, I noticed that there are so many different kinds of people. I realized that it’s all just a beautiful mess. It’s a tangled web of crazy people. It’s full of people who are depressed, liars, cheaters, alcoholics, gossips and drug addicts. There are the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the broken and the joyful, the weary and the strong, the unfaithful and the faithful, the proud and the humble. And not one of these people is better than another. We all sit in the same pews at the same level, and we all kneel before the same throne.

I praise God that He is the only one we can hold high above us on the highest pedestal of all. And I praise Him for loving the beautiful mess that we are.

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