"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,'"
For many years I have struggled with the whole concept of organized Church. Line up a few bad experiences as a kid, a life of perpetual transition from one place to the next, a negative gut reaction to authority, and a tendency to get a little self-righteous or just bored around sleepy communities full of good people and you have a snapshot of my bad attitude with all the excuses needed to justify it.
The problem is...
Well the problem is God.
He has this thing about the Church. He loves it like His own flesh and blood. Or... like a groom loves his bride. He writes poetry about it. He brags about it.
In short. It's really hard to talk to God and not have the Church come up.
I've tried all the usual - being deeply connected with a small group of Christian friends and saying that is Church, ministering alongside other Christians and saying that is Church, reading the Bible a lot and doing my best to live it and saying that is Church, basically doing all the 'Faith' things that are personally fulfilling and saying that is Church.
But God doesn't let me get away with anything. He's patient. But He's not stupid, and I'm not fooling Him with any of my excuses or my attempts to substitute parts for the whole.
Some parts of the body are not as beautiful as others.
Your palms will never be as lithe as your fingers; your belly button could never compete with your eyes. But you can't pick and choose, only keeping the beautiful or interesting parts. God calls the Church His body. If I am in Him, I'm in the Church. It would never do for the fingers to be cut off form the torso. It will never do for me to isolate myself from the larger body of believers.
Here I am 'going to Church.' Or more appropriately, joining the Church in meeting together for fellowship. It's still a struggle for me. A discipline in hope and faith - to believe that God's big story of redemption, making the messed up stuff whole and beautiful, is not only possible for me but also for the larger Church.
Ben does not seem to struggle with this like I do. I bring apprehension; he brings anticipation. He seems to think that every believer is excited about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives and in the world. He walks up to people like it's natural to ask them about prayer needs and then actually pray with them. I am hyper aware of barriers, both real and imagined. Ben is barrier blind. So, while I have been creeping around the edges of our new community, Ben has gone jostling right into the center.
A typical conversation on the way to Church:
"I just don't feel connected. No one's invited us to dinner. No one even notices if we aren't there... Rawr, Rawr, Rawr, Rawr."
"Well, let's pray about it... God, please help us to find ways to connect to and serve this community!"
Ben is good for me. God is good.
(to be continued)