I don't know about the church. I love her. I am frustrated with her. I am her. I have spent so much of my life investing in her, trying to help her find her hidden beauty, coaxing small steps forward out of her, and telling her inspiring, mesmerising, and often bewildering stories. At times, I have to admit, I have given her stern lectures about her disappointing behaviour. But there have been lots of good times, too. We have laughed at life's oddities and joys. We have gone on road trips that have changed us. We have eaten the best meals together, so much more tasty because of the hours spent elbow to elbow in the kitchen. We have strung flowers from ceilings and stripped off our clothes and jumped about foolishly and called it art, or worship, or both.
I am deeply committed to her as a part of me and a part of Jesus. When I am with her the human and divine come crashing together, sometimes painfully, but most times like a symphony being written by a group of gifted children who are still learning the fine art of playing together. The sweet notes take your breath away, and when you hear them, you forget all the sour notes that were tripped over on the way there. Sometimes it feels more like a tug of war, or a standoff. Sometimes it is like that peaceful moment just before you fall asleep. Always there is movement. At least that is my hope.
Last night one of my friends stated that we live in a place where people have deep wounding in the area of commitment. That much is becoming obvious to me. I cannot count the number of times I have been the only person to show up on time, to come prepared with a prayer and some thoughts, or to suggest a plan of study or an activity. I am always there. It is what I do. I am trying to be faithful. I no longer get annoyed at people not responding to my emails, not returning my phone calls, only showing up when it is convenient, and almost never coming up with any initiative of their own. If people don't want to do it, I cannot make them. We are not a healthy body in some ways for though we love and care for each other in a very familial way, we have very little sustainability, much less growth.
Part of the problem is that I probably carry too much of this weight of sustaining and building something: I long to see the emergence of a vibrant community of people that welcome Jesus and the outsider with equal excitement. I cannot make that happen, and perhaps I am using all the wrong avenues to try to nurture it. How do we heal that deep wound that never wants to commit, to give oneself totally? That always wants the option to bow out? I don't know. Lately I have found myself toying with the idea of not showing up and seeing if anyone notices. But that's no solution - that's just walking away because it is hard.
What I can do is this: I can bring myself to that frightening place of commitment every day. I cannot drag anyone else with me. I cannot force them to do the holy face plant of surrender in front of King Jesus and then to take up his great heartbreaking love for Montreal with all its demands. All I can do is point out some of those passions buried deep inside of them and then ask if they are willing to do the work of digging them up so that we can fan them into life. And while they are thinking about it, I will still be here. As a friend. As someone who wants to learn life together. As someone who is willing to go first.
Being the church is never about showing up to a meeting or taking on a role, but about talking to people the way Jesus talked to them, walking beside them the way he did, and pursuing their healing and freedom while he is pursuing ours. It should be our life, happening everywhere and all the time. If we are not living like this, we are not extensions of him. We are not his body. Sometimes we have to learn what we are not before we can see what we truly are and can become.
I don't know about the church, but I know someone who does. I will have to trust him, because I am her.
This is photo of a maple leaf in the woods earlier this month. Oh, Canada!
NOTE: I realise that the correct grammatical structure would be "I am she," but the blog just wrote itself this way and I like it. Apologies to all speakers of good English.