But some humble and wise pastors and church friends and authors and strangers and fellow travelers have shared their faith, hope and experience with along the way with such generosity and kindness. Sometimes their words stung, but they were no less important because in understanding the "sting" I felt, I was able to consider new ways of acting or viewing things. Of course, sometimes there was considerable nonsense that had to be cut away, but that did not make the true part(s) any less important.
In the coming days I will share some practical ways to "meet" God and some practical ways to "meet God in new ways" so wherever you are on the journey of life, I hope you will remember this most important rule: discard what you find distracting or discouraging without failing to find the seed worth planting. I get plenty of things wrong or incomplete and am not done with my journey so remember that as you read this first comment:
I have had my heart broken sitting with a sorrowing, worried or despairing person and have them expend energy and time listing all the reasons they won't consider a spiritual journey. The most common one is that had a "bad experience" with someone in church or a family member who attends church or were offended by something they believe church people "all believe". To you I say, I am deeply and perpetually grieved when people experience unhappy encounters with people who identify themselves as Christians. I'm even more deeply and perpetually grieved and embarrassed when I am that person. If it was me, I offer my sincere and abject apology.
But it is important to consider this: Not all people self-identifying as Christians or attending a church or even running a church are actually very far developed in wisdom, humility and the sharing of love, hope, redemption, wisdom or any of the other things we would like "churchy people" to be. In fact, many of us are in varying degrees convicted of our own limitations and to that degree, seeking God's continued input in our lives. I don't know of any "certificate" or "credential" I can recommend to be certain that anyone self-identifying as Christian is even actually aware of what following Christ might entail. They might have gotten involved because they like being identified as "good" or to please family members or as a good business networking opportunity.
And we don't throw people out because we suspect that might be the case: we pray for them; we love them, we invite them to become more thoughtful and intentional about their relationship with God. It is not unusual for someone to "come to faith" after years of squirming in the pew because there seem to be some people who are involved on a level they "just don't get" for a while.
So I offer this challenge: can you name any organization, group, employer, union, not-for-profit, neighborhood action group, Scout troop, coffee klatch, knitting group, Red Hat group, retired guys lunches, civic improvement committee, political group, college/university or just any kind of group where the more you got to know the folks the more you don't realized their sorrows, shortfalls and basic humanity? Because churches have those same folks in their pews and they, largely, are there because they want something more, not because they "have it all together."
And honestly, I have to be so grateful for the brokenness of folks who self-identify as followers of Christ, but who admit they are still learning and growing and they put their arms around me and say, "Join us as we learn and serve and grow as God teaches and tends and uses us as God sees fit to the best of our understanding of what that means." We are far from perfect. We may say or do something that jars. But we will not demand you "have it all together" because God has not demanded that of us.
Will you give us a chance to share our experience with you?