The Church will fail you

It was a Saturday.  I don't know why I remember that after 15 years, but I do.  I was working a busy 12 hour shift at the hospital, but my mind was still replaying the Sunday before.  My stomach was nervous, and my heart thumped hard against my chest.  I couldn't wait another day to do what I knew needed to be done.  My hands felt the slightest tremor as I picked up the phone in one of the nurse's charting alcoves.  I dialed her number, and waited in dread as it began to ring.

I'd had nursery duty that week during service, and as I watched my young son I looked around the space to see how it could be improved.  There had been a bit of a baby boom in the congregation, and I felt the need to refresh the small space.  With permission from leadership and a budget assigned, I initiated the process.

There were removable stickers displayed happily along the walls that I easily removed and placed in the trash.  I was imagining paint and matching curtains along with organized shelves full of diapers and wipes.  My vision of the room was perfectly inviting, and I knew it was going to be a great contribution to everyone who walked through its doors.

When service was over I left the room in its altered state and joined the socialization in the sanctuary. A little while later, as I walked out of the church that day, I peaked into the small room and saw her.  She was bent over the trash, removing the stickers that I had so mindlessly thrown away.  Carefully, so carefully she peeled apart the ones that were stuck to each other.  She was salvaging what she could, and I heard her say in a voice lifted in frustration and sadness, "Who would have done this?"

I couldn't admit it was me.  I was ashamed and embarrassed.  It was in that moment of watching her pick up the discarded pieces of what she had contributed to the church that I realized what I had done.  I had carelessly thrown away a gift that she had lovingly given.  And while it was within my right to make a change I failed to exercise wisdom, discernment, and love.

In the moment of my haste to fix the building, I broke a part of the church.

In service to the greater good of the congregation, I looked right past an important part of it.

In fulfilling my own desire to contribute, I stole someone else's offering.
The phone rang.  Two times.  And three.  The answering machine.

I breathe relief then leave a message of confession and apology.  I hang up still feeling the regret of my blindness.  She deserved more than a message on her machine, but I wasn't mature enough at that time to give her anything else.

She never mentioned it to me, and it was easier for me not to bring it up.  I don't know if she ever received my apology.  I don't know how my actions affected her thoughts of attending and serving in a church.  I don't know what wounds I may have reopened or scars I inflicted.  I wonder if she felt a bit expired, a bit rejected, a bit unneeded.  Pain has whispered those same lies to me.  I do know that after some time she stopped showing up altogether.

I look back on that now and understand so much more than I did then.  Churches don't rise and fall on the removing of decorations, but they are impacted on how well we love each other.  I have gone to church my entire life and I have witnessed how gossip demeans, hypocrisy destroys, judgement devalues, affairs devour, lies deflect, and egos defeat the message that Jesus died for.

We look for the church to be our sanctuary from the world, but what we seem to forget is that the church is a part of this world.  There is no church that exists that is not full of sinners, and that means if you stay long enough, it will disappoint you.  I have been on both sides of it.  We call ourselves Christians because we are followers of Christ, but WE ARE NOT CHRIST.  We strive to be completely whole, unbroken, and beautiful but we will not be made perfect until we are face to face with the One who is.  And until that time, we are called to be humble repenters and generous forgivers.

The church will fail you, but Jesus will not.

He is our only hope of seeing each other more clearly.  And where we face failure, he is the door to the sanctuary of repentance, forgiveness, and peace.

Comments

  1. This is one of those things you read and you store it in your box of wisdom to pull out later when you know you will need it. So much truth in this! I need to print this out and bring it to my bible study bc I feel like it would be such a great topic for discussion!

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    1. Abby, thank you for sharing this, and commenting with your thoughts.

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