A Church Needs a Lot of Different People

Posted on April 17, 2013

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There are moments when I need to lean on the faith of others. When a bomb explodes at the Boston Marathon. And then another one goes off. When I see theological bullies tearing the church apart like a chicken wishbone, hoping to end up with the bigger part. When I see capitalism masquerading as Christianity. When I simply think about that one child, hungry and alone, unreachable by my hands, words, or dollar bills.

Sometimes it is all too much for me to believe. It is at these moments when I to borrow some faith.

However, sometimes those people my age aren’t the best people to lean on. Because my generation (all generations) has grown up under the same cultural influences, we often tend to see the world through similar lenses of interpretation. I would guess that most people around my age (33), who also have young families, are like me in many ways: sleep deprived, a few pounds heavy, wondering “Where did all my friends go? How can I meet make a few new ones?” We want to be idealists, we just don’t know how, given our repeated disillusionment at the hands of political and religious leaders. We feel settled in our jobs and this makes us antsy. Now that our kids go to school we feel locked into a city, a house, a life-path, and sometimes this makes us feel stuck.

I need other people in my life to remind me that my life is not all there is.

I need people around me who are younger than I am to remind me of the beauty of the world. My kids never let me forget that everything is amazing – that I (even I) am worthy of love. Everything is new and they have not yet deluded themselves with the belief of mastery. My daughter was heartbroken last night. As she was falling asleep (who doesn’t love the things kids say as the fall asleep?) she said, “But I don’t know how to play baseball! I haven’t been practicing!” This was just because she saw a picture of a baseball player in her school’s gym. Everything is new and amazing and worth doing. Not worth doing well. That’s not even an option for little kids. Baseball, reading, drawing, running, acting like a dinosaur; these activities don’t approach “well-done” for kids, and yet they do them every single day. (When did I lose that kind of raw ambition for new things?)

I need older people around me to remind me that I am not the first person to struggle with life. I need to hear about their doubts, not just their doubts about God, but the doubts they had about themselves or their relationships. I need to hear about mistakes they made and how they lived to tell the tale. I need to hear about heartache and loss. I want to hear advice about work, money, life, time, family, God, risk, clothes, war, love, children, and death. I don’t just want to hear this wisdom, I need to hear this wisdom because otherwise I get sucked down in the vortex of my own mind and its worries. I need to get pulled out of my own life once and awhile.

I have been listening to The Power of Habits: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business on my commute to work. One section that sticks with me is about how Alcoholics Anonymous has been effective at changing behavior, in part because participants believe they are capable. And it is easier to believe you’re capable of change when you’re part of a community (regular meetings of AA) that tells you that you’re capable. Many people are able to maintain sobriety for months on their own, but when life takes a turn for the worse, it is those people who can call their sponsor and hear, “You’re going to get through this!” who are able to avoid reaching for a drink. It is the faith of other people in them that create the faith in themselves.

You’re going to get through this!

We are hoping to soon move to be closer to work and will have to find a new church. I suppose this is what I’m looking for from a church: to be surrounded by the faith of other people when I need it and to be able to surround them when it is my turn to be strong. I know this isn’t easy. I know it is messy and requires serious vulnerability. But I know that if I pick a new church primarily because it has people who are my age, think like me, have kids my kids can play with, value what I value, then I will likely end up surrounded by people who have the same needs and weaknesses that I do. We may end up enabling one another’s addictions to our own problems.

What are your experiences of the church? Have you found strength in diversity or solidarity in unity?

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Posted in: Church, Theology