It’s Sunday

Last weekend I went to Jazz in the Park and met with a friend visiting from out of town who was returning a bag of books to Carmen, “our local library”. As she pulled out of the bag the stack of books, one of them, thin and discreet, had this title: Church frustration and fulfillment by Philip Yancey. I had to have it. Just for a few days… and read it rather fast, though I wanted to digest it slowly. It was rich and funny.

It so happened that we had established a meeting, with anyone willing in the youth group, to talk about where we’re heading as a church. It was a rich time with only five people. We started off with concepts and stories from this book by Yancey, then we shared current struggles, then we prayed and we sang.

I have been feeding my mind and soul with good books lately. And I got to share them with Conrad and others. There are so many struggles in our immediate life, that at times it’s overwhelming to tackle any and all at once.

Here are a few ideas that stuck with me from this book:

The major difference between a struggling church and a thriving AA meeting is dependency. People in AA meetings come up to share honestly, not trying to pretend they are something they are not; they are aware of their dependency on God and others to survive. In contrast, many churches have become exclusivist clubs where everyone presents their best version, come across self-sufficient and I dare say a bit arrogant. Pride is a sin, and yet is so well dressed up, that it instigates gossip and envy. Though everyone is responsible in front of God for what they choose to dwell and feed on.

The sins of the old stifling the air in the church. Old unsolved issues that keep resurfacing. Old people who should lead with wisdom and not charge the 20 year olds to confront other old people with old sins.
I am the eternal mediator but with renewed boundaries, that wants to call out the sin and tell them to deal with it themselves and not look up to their children to solve the eternal suspicion of taking advantage of situations to profit. The arrogance and defensiveness smell so bad. The sin is rotten. And young people leave in waves, but when confronted with the truth, leaders who have lost respect and trust say: “if you don’t like it, leave. Other will come”. To this I have only this to say:

Proverbs 9:7-8 (NIV)

7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.

One important thing stuck me from the boundaries book. If you react to people trespassing your boundaries, they still have control over you. But if you let go of the strong emotions and you address issues calmly, you set boundaries and keep them clear. We are not victims and we can’t dwell on blaming others for what we allow ourselves to be subjected to.

You might wonder what does this have to do with our adoption journey. Well, Philip Yancey talks about the fulfillment in church. I grew up in church, and church has played an essential role in my life that nothing could have done it. I am who I am today because in my childish hunger for what is good and right, I found healthy companionship and guidance and leaders to inspire me. I found God. And today I am motivated to act and serve and relate out of love, not out of fear, or guilt or frustration. There is an immediate benefit to following God in all my relationships. And in my heart of hearts I want to offer our child the gift of church and a health striving community.

Upon moving here, while we served with zeal, others looked at us funny. In all honesty we disturbed their rhythm and they didn’t like it. But we had an amazingly rich year in 2015, and I have no regrets in the effort we put forth. But many who enjoyed the fruits didn’t try to multiply it. Let’s say we were farmers, and someone came to fill the rich land with crops, and it grew and it fed a multitude of people. But at the end of the first year, instead of learning how to tend to the land, save the seeds to sow again the next year, it seems that nobody paid attention to the cyclical seasons, nobody saved up any seeds – they just sat and got feed and fell asleep.