I felt it before I saw it. I can't describe how or why, but I felt it. As I opened my front door the hair on my neck and arms stood on end, my heart rate spiked, my breath was sapped from my lungs. Right there, a few feet from our front door, in the middle of the otherwise untouched snow of our front yard, someone had carved a 12-foot by 12-foot swastika. I wasn't prepped to see that symbol. I knew something was off, but I wasn't prepped for the depth of that. I closed the door, prayed, asked the Lord for courage and clarity, and then stepped out into the cold night, fairly certain that whoever had wanted to leave that message was probably still around.
We don't like to live with tension. We don't like ambiguity. We don't know how to embrace the word ... AND. What the spread of this virus has been helpful in exposing is that we don't know what we don't know. It has revealed the limitations of our creatureliness in a pretty stark fashion. It is new to everyone and so we are all learning together. You would think that would eliminate our hubris, but it might be making it worse.
It explained why I would come home after multiple church services on a Sunday with a level of exhaustion that I couldn’t even begin to describe. Not just tired, soul level exhausted. It explained why my true friendships were few in numbers and were all with people I had known for decades. I have always been a guy with hundreds of genuinely fond acquaintance relationships and very few friendships. It explained my anxiety around situations and scenarios with lots of strangers where I had to mingle and not where I got to have the relative position of safety of being the pastor guy on stage. It explained a lot of my self-loathing that I put myself through because I wasn’t more fun as a hang, or why I couldn’t be more winsome and charming in conversation. It explained … my life.
We really can be guilty of a DIY christianity, not stopping to ask others for help and not admitting at any point that we need it, and the results we end up with are not unlike my unfinished fan. Our Christian lives might look good enough from the outside but they fail to deliver on the actual results that this journey with Jesus was designed to deliver on, that we would be more like Him.
How much of professional Christian life is geared so that we spend more time complaining about sinners than we spend in genuine compassionate friendship and relationship?
I have spent most of my life desperately trying to fit in and to be accepted by people who didn’t even care about me all that much. That is immense folly for children of grace. I don’t want to waste any more time and energy on that. I long to be able to say with the apostle Paul, “…by the grace of God, I am what I am”. That isn’t a prideful arrogance that refuses to be changed. That is a humble acceptance of the acceptance of God. That is a truly liberating thing! That is a freedom I desire.
It got me thinking. Friendship is a powerful thing, and while I know that I am blessed in the friendship that I have received and not everyone would have that as their story, Christians ought to be known by the kind of friendship that they give. Genuine friendship ought to mark us as communities of people. I confess that I forget this all too often, but as I enter into my next decade of life I am making a simple commitment to be a good friend to people.