Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"God Won't Bless a Mess"

I remember once in high school when I was cat-sitting for a neighbor who is a devout Evangelical Christian. I always marveled at how clean her house was. It was meticulously decorated and organized. Anyone who has lived with me can assure that cleanliness is not my strong suit.

Going downstairs to do the dreaded duty of cleaning the litter box, I noticed an unmissable sign on the overhang of the basement stairs that read:

               REMEMBER: GOD WON'T BLESS A MESS

Shoot, I thought. I guess that means we're all in a boatload of trouble then. I haven't met one person who has their life together. Even quaint Bed and Breakfasts in Cape Cod have random crap shoved in a bathroom closet.

Recently, a friend shared an article criticizing Evangelical Christians for their obsession with exhibiting their imperfection rather than focusing on holiness and sanctification. I'm sure they had a good point, but I couldn't really make it through the article because after spending my middle, high school, and college years obsessed with self-improvement, I am now a USDA-certified Hot Mess. I know it and I sometimes hate myself for it.

Beyond my own (long) shortcomings, I have been made acutely aware in the past year of the shortcomings of other Christians, convincing me that they are WHO-certified Radioactive Oil Spills. My sister was backstabbed on a Julius Caesar-esque level by a woman who writes a lovely, flower-embellished Christian Mommy Blog. My heart has been broken by stories of and encounters with people destroyed by prejudice, judgment, and abandonment by Christians and the Church. I, myself, have felt very abandoned by God, Christian friends, and the Church. I find little help for tough times and can't rally myself back to the faith I once had.

What I've also realized in the past couple years though is that Jesus came for a world that is a Hot Mess and people who are really messed up. He spent time with the riff-raff. I don't even think I would want to hang out with many of the people he did. And many of these people are the very same that we look down on, condemn, push away, ignore, and accuse: the social outcasts, morally corrupt, crazy, disabled, annoying, poor, and crazy.

It breaks my heart to hear about many Christians shutting out family and friends in an effort to send a message of disapproval. God is the one who has the task of judging. He has given us the task of being His presence on earth and loving.

I also found this article's message concerning because I have found that people being honest about their struggles is the most helpful for teaching and encouraging others. I also think it is one of the best tools for reaching out to those who do not have a relationship with God. Even as someone who has grown up in the Church, I find it alienating how people put forth such a perfect facade. There is little guidance for dealing with hardship and failure because so much emphasis is placed on optimism and vague platitudes. In general, it is more comforting to hear another person's story than "I know how you feel. You will be okay."

I hope the Church can be more honest because I think that's what the world needs. People are tired of constructed images of perfection that they can't measure up to. Everyone is tired of putting on a mask of happiness and hipness. People need to know they are not alone: the Body of Christ should stand with them through thick and thin, just as Christ does.

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