I don’t know if I am easily impressed but I often find myself thinking of people as heroes. One of these people is Matt Chandler. Matt is a pastor at a church in Texas. I think what I like about Matt Chandler is his ability to put the things I am thinking into better words than I can. One of the phrases he says a lot is this,
‘It’s ok to not be ok; just don’t stay there.’
Often in my experiences of church it has been hard to be honest about how not ok I have been at times. There have been seasons of weeks running into months when I have been anything but ok. My hope bruised, my faith struggling I was by know means ‘soaring on wings like eagles.’ In fact if anything I was drudging through the mud of the worst experiences of my life. Yet I turned up to church events and displayed what I thought was an ok facade. The mask of my doing well christianity hiding the crumbling of my increasingly deadening spirituality.
This kind of life will not last indefinitely, eventually something has to give. We react in one of two ways; we run or we rest. When faced with that crunch moment, when faking it is no longer able to cut it we can either run away or we can rest and recover. At times, I am sure I have chosen both.
We run when we think that nobody will face that moment with us. When we can’t see that person that we need. Someone to just sit with us as we work out how to get out of where we are, and back to a place where we feel really alive again. We run when we are convinced that our stuff is different to everybody else’s stuff and that the shame of being judged and castigated for that stuff is just too painful to risk.
So many people I know have come to that point with churches. They can’t do it anymore. They can’t smile and say, ‘yeah, I’m fine thanks. You?’ any longer. They can’t sing about the overflowing joy in their souls to some triumphant beat. They checked out. They looked around the church and couldn’t see how they fitted in, their reality didn’t fit the narrative. They were a mess, their churches presented strength, wholeness and satisfaction as prerequisites of a christian life and they just didn’t belong. They ran away, they couldn’t see how their brokenness could ever belong. Some of these people were kind of right, some churches can adhere to an unspoken hierarchy of brokenness with a line across which you are a second class christian in need of redemption. Maybe though, they had lost sight of the people around them who wanted to love them and support them. Sometimes it was a mix of both.
Being at City Life Church has been good for my soul. It has reminded me of the simple truth of the gospel, we are all the same. All of the stuff of our lives is the same. We are all a little bit messy and that is ok. I came here from York with my mess and met some people here with their own mess to deal with but rather than run from that we stick together. We are working on being a community who love each other because that is how we move on from this stuff. We look at each others stuff and say you know what? It’s ok that you have that going on, but lets not have you stay there, let us love you as you move on from this place to somewhere better.
What I’ve found in Luton is a church that takes acceptance seriously, that takes love seriously and that understands that if God shows grace, patience and mercy to us then the least we can do is pass it on. If we seek and accept the acceptance and mercy of God then we would be the greatest of hypocrites not to strive to do the same for others.
Let’s continue to work hard at loving each other. Let’s improve at being strong for one another’s weaknesses. Our faith is not about being perfect but accepting our imperfections. Our faith is not about being sinless but about being made Holy by undeserved grace.
‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor’ – Galations 6
The church is perfectly set up for you to not be ok in, just don’t stay there.