I’ve never had the pleasure or ease of growing up in one church, or being rooted and connected to one either. I think if you are reading this and you grew up that way you would find it hard to imagine the “church” I’ve known. (I’m not speaking of one church but my experience as a whole)
It is not always the safe haven some would think. In fact it’s pretty rough if you are not the cookie cutter Christian they believe you ought to be. I used to think I was alone in these feelings, and that if I spoke up about it I’d shine a light on some defect in me that makes me an outcast, unlovable.
At a women’s conference I attended a few years ago, Women of Valor, there was a call for women to come forward who had hidden issues, secrets that kept them out on the fringes of their churches, women who felt alone in their churches… wow, I thought I’d be the only one up there! But would you believe the floor was covered with women who came forward for prayer. God raised my eyes to look at the mass of hurting people who thought they were alone just like I did. God showed me I was not alone, but it’s raised my eyes also to seek why and to seek change. Now, I’m bumping into people who are speaking up and saying the same thing – I don’t fit in – in a church! It is a heart cry really because we all want to fit in. We don’t want to be outcasts, hanging out on the fringe away from people, but for some reason we are. Why?
A comforting thought Holy Spirit just spoke to me: the fringes of Jesus’ tallit had healing in them according to Mal. 4:2 – wings means the fringes of a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl)
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings
Those of us on the fringes are not forgotten by the Lord. He loves us. I think in a lot of cases we are outcasts because of the plan He has for us. (It is not meant to punish us, or means that God looks down on us.) God’s plan for each of us is for Good not for evil, but it can make us different from others.
Even in heartbreaking situations our experiences can and will be used by God for good if we will hand them over to Him. He creates beauty out of our ashes, but there is still that pull to belong, and that is not a bad thing.
I do believe in a vision, a thought, a longing that is in me. Not by my own doing I’m sure, but by God. Some think it sounds impossible and have said so, some would call it a fantasy – I dare say it’s God’s heart for his body of children to come together and actually be united. I feel it and see it in a way I can’t explain.
1 Pet. 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
11He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”[a]
2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
United is what we are called to be. It is what we long for. In my church experience I haven’t seen unity. There are people you like, there are people who are “shallow” friends… there is still distance, no depth. Why?
In one church a man stood up to speak his heart about how he doesn’t feel he can come to the church and ask openly for prayer for his marriage because five or more people would be out gossiping the next day. There is no feeling of safety to open up. How can connection be made when openness is harmful?
What is the solution? I would really love to know.
I know I’ve heard that revival starts in individuals. Maybe a revival of unity will need to start the same way, with each of us learning to live and love as God teaches us too in his word. If I’m a friend God’s way I won’t judge, won’t gossip, won’t discourage, won’t hurt others… God’s way is to be compassionate, to lift up and encourage, speaking life, to love beyond reason, and to look for the good.
How do we all get in that same way of thinking and loving?
1 Corinthians 13
4Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].