I went for a run last week with a friend who works in a church. In between gasps of breath we chatted about our kids and the upcoming Easter weekend. I told her about all my plans for eggs hunts and family meals and asked her what she was doing this weekend. She confessed that she didn’t actually have many personal or family plans but that she was just waiting to “get this weekend over with”. With all that was going on with church events, activities and services she was just hoping to survive the frenzy… and maybe steal a couple chocolate eggs from her son.
Survival was key.
-And I SO got it.
Classic church life holiday survival strategies.
When the church calendar takes over like a tyrant and beats our flex time to a pulp, demanding our submission to the tasks involved with coordinating people to celebrate… It’s hard not to just live for the end in sight.
Interestingly enough though, I didn’t have an activities list scaring me away from celebrating this weekend. But the essence of the church calendar in itself was an intimidation. The thought of Good Friday was particularly unpleasant.
“OK let’s get this over with.” was my own sentiment too.
I am not quite sure when it happened but sometime awhile ago I began avoiding the Good Friday gatherings. For maybe 6-7 years now I have “successfully” avoided them by volunteering with the kids in the basement, making crafts, listening to music and having snacks.
“Serving the Kids” I told myself was a noble use of Good Friday [But really it was AKA ‘Doing happy things’]
But I washing dishes last Thursday night, thinking about the Friday morning gathering, and my conversation with God went something like,
God? I don’t think I really want to go..
I am not sure…
Well, what comes to mind when you think of going?
I just.. I don’t want to feel guilty anymore. I can’t handle all that shame.
What do you mean?
See, I already know you are Good! And I know you are SO Loving and you are victorious over death! Why do we all need to gather together to beat each other up? Its like the one time of year we all wear black and say horrible things to each other like: “It should have been you, you know. It wasn’t the soldiers that killed Jesus- it was You. Do you know you deserve to be crucified on a cross for the terrible things you have done?” (And then we add, But its OK. Just be really super grateful that Jesus did it for you…)
You know? Like why do we don’t that?! Do we want to make ourselves feel like the deepest scum of the earth so that we will be grateful for Sunday? Its almost a twisted version of hissing to a small child at the dinner table: “You better be thankful for that broccoli because there are starving children in Africa you ungrateful wretch”. Has there ever been a child in which that tactic birthed in them sincere gratitude?!
Lord? I’m just trying of feeling guilty.
You know I Love you right?
…Yeah.. I do.
You know, you you can let me sit with you in the gathering tomorrow morning?
You don’t have to alone. You are afraid of being in the darkness alone, but this year trying letting Me sit with you. Don’t listen to those voices in your head. Don’t even so much listen to the voices of the people around you tomorrow. Its so hard for my children to understand Me, to have the words to describe what happened to me. They want so sincerely to know my Life in fullness, they are just trying to enter into the fullness of the death that happened. But just listen to my voice tomorrow, that’s the only one you need to hear. You can trust me.
So I went to church Friday morning (still a little jealous that my daughter got to go do happy crafts downstairs..)
-but I showed up nonetheless.
I showed up when it was uncomfortable.
And I showed up because someone had promised me He wouldn’t leave me hanging. He was going to sit with me and walk me through it.
And you know? I didn’t have the barrage of mental & emotional harassment that I had anticipated.
I didn’t have any lightening bolts of insight or great beaming lights of Aha either.. But I had a Promise, and that was enough.
“I will never leave you or forsake you”.
And I share this because as I have interacted with a lot of “church people” over the years, I look around and wonder just how many of us are battling the same fights. I did notice in seminary that a lot of Children’s pastors seemed to be a lot like me. A lot of people that liked kids a lot, cared about the church, had pretty bad boundaries with doing too much and tad bit bit workaholic in temperament. I realized I probably wasn’t the only one ‘hiding’ some of my own relational hang-ups with Jesus behind serving the our super cute kids. So I wonder how many of us have spots that we just go “Ooo, no Lord. Just don’t take me there”. It might even be subconscious. But in us we don’t like the dark uncomfortable places in our journey or our faith so we and so we gravitate to what we know and what is safe. We’re good at burying ourselves in doing really good things for other people. Things that actually need to be done and things that other people will be very pleased with us for doing. But along the way our hearts get cold and confused because they haven’t been given space to breathe honestly and confess the shadows.
Whether we are parenting, pastoring, or volunteering I think we all need more breathers. We need to change that diaper, glue the dolphin on the construction paper, drive that friend of our child home… But then for goodness sakes Just.Stop!
Stop burying our own wounds and doubts and fears with service to others.
Because eventually we either won’t be able to keep serving, either from self combusting in our faith or we’ll externally explode in our communities because of our dysfunctional avoidance tactics!
So we need courage. We need to accept spaces and opportunities for our own growth. To allow our whole selves to show up, and ask that He show up too in that shadows, the doubts and the contradictions. And because of a Sunday that happened many years ago, I trust that He will show up again for you, my friend.