Saturday, January 7, 2012

I love the church, but I don't like it

(Texan Artist Laurie Pace)

"I loved the Church for Christ made visible. Not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me. Romana Guardini said the Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified; one could not separate Christ from His Cross, and one must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church." - Dorothy Day

Thanks to my roommate, I've fallen in love with Dorothy Day. All I've read is half of her autobiography, but my heart resonates with her, her ideals, her desire for love and happiness, and her unhindered conviction of the insatiability of anything on this earth that equals God. She discovers through voluntary poverty, through radical protests and imprisonment, through living on the beaches enveloped by nature and its stark beauty, through loving a man and having a child, all of these joys, which are true and good, only drew her closer to God, and to His Church.

Even as I have committed myself, body and mind, to the ministry, to God, I have never been able to fully tie myself to the Church. As deeply as I know God and have faith in Him, I also know that I am part of a body that is holy, that is the Bride to the Bridegroom. Coming into this neighborhood I wanted to lose myself, and lose myself I have; in the poor, in living next to those society shuns. Often times, I become one with them, blending into the soup kitchen tables, the line, the huddle in the cold wind. There is but one thing I desire more, even than this honor, and that is to be one with the Church, huddled together, worshiping in reverence a God we know is true and seeks us.

In these huddles we don't all agree, or like each other, or understand how or why God has fashioned us together -- the point is -- He has. To be frank, I dislike the Church very much, but that really doesn't matter. As Day wrote, permanent dissatisfaction is assured, but that does not mean we cut ties, we separate ourselves from the body, indeed, we cannot. As we put off our own burdens and carry that of Christ, we also take up the burden the Church hands us. It is a great burden, of past pain and mistakes, of shame, of greed, of sin; I've concluded, that I am one among the number of the Church, I am an ear or a finger or a hip bone, I am not a complete bodily form alone.

Search - you will not find the perfect Church, then again, you will not find a perfect you. This year, I want each step that I take to lead my into a closer, and more binding relationship with the Church. To be sure, I am terrified of that desire, I grew up with a very noncommittal view towards any particular Church, which has both helped and hurt my view of the Church as a whole. What I know for sure is that I am not better than, less than, or separate from the rest of the Body; I am bound, married, and one with God's Church.


Donna Boucher said...


As you can imagine...being a part of an actual, living, breathing, in person body of Christ is only something I have been a part of a few times...and then it was not a forever place.

I know it should be.

Perhaps I will have to wait until heaven for that.

Anonymous said...

Great piece and heart Emma!!!

Sally Sheets

Anonymous said...

Dear Emma, I agree no church is perfect as none of us are perfect and yet we strive to achieve that perfection of God's love in our lives. I have been a member of nine different churches in three different states and I have had periods of not attending, growing concerned for the state of the church and the inclusion of politics in the church and yet I so enjoy the community of worship and the way the liturgy lifts me up and touches my heart and makes me better for having been through the service. There is no right answer here. Be guided by God and you will know what to do that will best serve God. Listen and you will hear. You are His beloved and you always have our prayers which hopefully help you feel supported.
love and prayers, nana jep

Erin Wawok said...

I too am a church hater, but every time I walk away from it, I end up realizing its importance to me and my importance to it. Thanks for your thoughts- I'm truly thankful that you are part of my church body.

Anonymous said...

For me, the best part of belonging to a church is not the politics and administration and arguments (well, duh...) but the community that we create. I belong to a social justice-oriented church and it's great to have opportunities to serve with people I know, a place to have our kids go for learning and fellowship (especially teenagers, having non-family adults with similar values to talk to and lots of friends to support them). You may enjoy this book The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God, by Ronald Rolheiser. I highly recommend it. It's a fast read in terms of reading the text, but slow if you take time to reflect on it.

Anonymous said...

Emma, I linked to your blog through your Mom's site. Wow. Just have to say, your words ring so true for me - the Church has almost been like that force between two opposing magnets. I am drawn near and want to be there and, at the same time, am forced away by things unseen but strongly felt.

Having teenagers of my own, I have to say that we have approached church with apprehension. We were deeply wounded by a church, and we've moved over 10 times. It used to be very worrisome to me that this was our kids' history being built, but I've come to appreciate it and even embrace it. Our teens, and our family, have planted roots in our relationship with Jesus Christ - not just the body of believers...

I believe community is commanded to us in Scripture - so that we may worship together, reflect on the expounded Word of God, and find solace in our times of grief and mourning. I, like you, am still not convinced that that needs to be all in one place, or under the confines of a building.

All that to say, we are now worshipping at a local church - less than 5 minutes from home - and we have been blessed beyond measure. Like you, it's taken a journey of many years, and many churches, and much pain. Rather than try to understand it all, I've laid down my need to understand and chosen to lie at His feet and just be. Such sweet, sweet peace there.

You are a remarkable young woman and your heart and your soul are immensely inspiring and impactive for Christ. "Well done, good and faithful servant"...

Can't wait to go home and share this with my son and daughter.

God Bless you, Emma!!


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