I wrote this a while back. Its kind of long for a blog, but I decided to post it just in case…
I spent this past weekend in an outrageously enormous log cabin on the side of a mountain in Gatlinburg, TN. You are probably jealous, as well you should be. But this was not one of those calm, restful getaways. Oh no.
This was family vacation.
Only, it wasn’t my biological family—although I have been blessed with an amazing one. This was my church family.
For me, that statement in itself is laughably ironic. I am the chief of all cynics when it comes to the church. I have loved Her and known that I would commit my life to serving Her for a very long time, but the feeling has always been accompanied by a bit of a chip on my shoulder and a twinge of heartbreak resting in the depths of me. The secret that for so long was hushed behind stained glass windows and locked behind confessional doors is now shouted from the loudest media outlets. It is no longer possible to put your fingers in your ears and hum to remain oblivious to it. The reality pounds incessantly on our own hearts through our personal experiences….
The American church is oh so far from perfect.
What makes matters even worse is that my bold and passionate young self can sit down and tell you everything that is wrong with the church and how much things are messed up, yet I struggle every single day to live the Gospel of Jesus’ Kingdom. Many days it is a fight just to have the desire to do so.
Amidst so many disappointments from churches down the street or in the news, I faced a decision. After years of seeing churches function more like country clubs than the Body of Christ, I had to figure out if I really believed there to be hope. Would Jesus really use such a broken and messed up group of people to accomplish His purposes? Even in the face of so much that had gone wrong with Christianity already? Luckily Jesus was patient with me, and my blatant lack of faith, and He reassured me of His historical preference for using the most inglorious vehicles to further His Kingdom.
At this point God introduced me to a young church plant called Midtown Fellowship in Columbia, SC. I was an intern at the very beginning stages, and am now lucky enough to be on staff here, along with a more incredible group of leaders than I could ever dream up. My hope for the church in America has grown steadily every day since I have been involved here, as I have seen what a beautiful thing it is to see people repent of our selfish sin and pride and rest in the grace of our Father. Together we have grown towards honesty and authenticity about our faith and about ourselves. So far it has been an inspiring and painful and beautiful journey.
And this weekend, while standing on the front porch of our cabin, encircled by laughter and the fog-covered Smokies, I realized that I had happened upon a miracle of God.
I had witnessed the birth of a family.
God has taken this group of selfish and stubborn people and molded us into a small model of His Bride. Although still far from perfect, we have become a community of people truly united under the blood of Jesus and the purpose of His Kingdom. Little by little we are learning to be more aware of others than of ourselves, and to trust these fickle creatures called people again.
My favorite quote as of late is from a book called “The Shack.” It reads, “Since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing.” I began to think about the profound reality behind that statement, and how amazing it is that God has designed us to experience healing through a relationship with Him in community with others—through family. Although I’ll never fully comprehend the Trinity, I am awestruck that God Himself exists in community, that He hates loneliness, and that we are invited directly His perfect union.
I feel certain that at any point most people in our world are in danger of buckling under their deep relational wounds. These scars may be more easily hidden, but they do not discriminate. One part of the human condition that we can all unite in is that we hurt. I am far from knowing all of the hurts of the 80 or so leaders who went on our family vacation this weekend, as most of them don’t know all of my hurts. But I cannot escape this feeling that as we pray and dream together, as we fight for each other—that there is something deeply significant and unseen happening between our community of souls.
I believe God is using our family to patch each other up, to heal one another’s wounds.
Every conversation, every smile and prayer between our family seems to bring the healing of Jesus to the pervasively broken and wicked places of our hearts. Bit by bit the desperate and lonely scars on our souls are restored to wholeness and hope. Relationships hurt, because we are by nature broken and disjointed. Brokenness is the fiber of our world. But family is one. Family brings God’s unity and peace to a world where nothing seems whole. Even the smallest gestures matter, because there are so many tiny cracks to be healed.
There is hope for the church in America because Jesus is the healer, and He is in the process of making all things new(Rev. 21.5).
Perhaps even more amazing about my family is the invitation to healing for the broken outside of our family. We are slowly learning to die daily and constantly reach out to the hurting and the hopeless. I witnessed this Sunday night at our gathering, when my friend Toni and I sat down to hang out with one of our homeless friends named Luis. He is a lonely man whose broken English and smile would brighten the worst of my days. As we sat there talking, he suddenly looked up at both of us and said, “I’m so glad I’m here because now I know I have friends. You guys make me feel like a real person, and I haven’t felt like a real person in a long, long time.”
My eyes began to water as I realized that God had used the simple gestures of our family to heal some of the vast brokenness of Luis’ soul.
It is truly miraculous to experience Jesus’ healing grace through community. I hope that our family will keep growing, and that others like ours are reaching out from everywhere so that more and more broken people like Luis will be brought into the healing of family.