I have a terrible habit of pre-judging people off of my first observations and subsequent assumptions. It is a genuinely terrible and undeniably sinful habit, and in my flesh, I enjoy it a lot. But, here is the thing. People are always more interesting that you presume them to be. Always.
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.
Like most of you (I presume) I sat aghast yesterday as I saw the scenes unfolding in Washington DC, and in particular, the scenes of rioters overtaking the US Capitol. As someone who is strangely as steeped in decades of US exceptionalism as the rest of you even though I didn’t grow up here, it was stark and troubling. We expect to see scenes like this on our screens from far flung places that don’t have the experience and “sophistication" of generations of democratic experience. It felt like a movie, a far-fetched one with really bad acting. And yet, it wasn’t a movie. It was a mirror.
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.
I have found it true, in my thirty years of walking with Jesus, that God and I have a different sense of time and urgency. When I want something to move quickly and with urgency, then that seems to be the exact season that God seems to slow things down and make me wait. When I want things to go slow, then that is when everything seems to come at me all once. The fact that God and I don’t have the same sense of time and urgency shouldn’t be surprising as God and I have very different perspectives and very different priorities.
What keeps us from loving the church? Is it necessary to be part of a church to be a Christian? Why does church matter?
"If I ever reach Heaven I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there." - John Newton
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?
"And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; but, oh, it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless tomorrow, and it robs today. For every day has its own burden. Sufficient for each day is the evil which properly belongs to it. Do not add tomorrow's to today's. Do not drag the future into the present. The present has enough to do with its own proper concerns." - Alexander Maclaren