- Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings
I am speaking about this humbly from a place of actually experiencing this. I feel like it's something that a lot of people need to hear.
One of my friends and pastor said this and it really hit me even though I have heard it many times before: "The church is full of broken people- just like you- who are so enthused about loving people because God loved them."
I want to speak to both parts of that statement. For the first half: I expect way too much from people. I think we all expect way too much from people. And, for some reason, we expect even more from people in the church. We expect them to love us the way we want to be loved and we expect them to never mess up. And we only give them one chance. The moment they screw up is the moment we write them off as hypocrites. And we run.
Yes, the church should love. We need to be loving more than any other institute or organization or group of people in this world because we are the only one who know the One True Love. BUT we are still imperfect people. I have a messed up life. I can't expect that my friends at church don't. They do too.
I need to stop playing the victim. And I think many people need to hear that too. Too long have I pointed my finger and in doing so I have chained myself up to my self-pity, my selfishness, my pride, and the lie that everyone is against me or no one understands me or they don't love me like I deserve. I deserve a pile of dirt. Worse, I deserve death. It is by the grace of God that I am loved by Him and by others.
Yeah some people probably said some things and did some things that legitimately hurt me or hurt my friends. But they have not done anything that is too far from forgiveness and grace. And I have to remember: They are broken just like me. The beauty of the church is that we are broken but we all know hope. The reason that the church is messy and not always fun or not always the place I want to be is because it is made up of broken, sinful people. But we get to gather weekly and remember the perfect man that was broken so we could be made whole. And, as God sanctifies us, that is somehow enough.
On to the second half. I realized something about this past year: Once I forgot the love that God had for me I started waiting around for someone to initiate loving me like I felt I deserved. Once I forgot the love that God gives me I started believing that no one understands me. Who cares whether people understand me? THE GOD OF THIS UNIVERSE knows me better than I know myself. He understands my every thought and my every temptation and he can sympathize with me. I need to stop putting so much weight on what my church friends think of me. The only opinion that matters is God's opinion. As the body they have the right to speak into my life but at the end of the day I answer to God.
I can only give what I have been given. I need to be reminded daily- every hour-of the love of God so that I can in turn give away love to my brothers and sisters. And if I stop waiting for someone to initiate with me and just choose to love those around me I will be less lonely and less angry and less fearful. The reason I was lonely and mad this year was because I put too much on the shoulders of others and when they couldn't meet the expectations they were never meant to have I felt lonely and sad.
I'm not saying that all you have to do is give give give without receiving, but I also believe you will never relieve if you never give. If I just wait by my phone until someone invites me to church instead of just going I'll never feel accepted. If I actually show up to things I'd be surprised how accepted I felt. I know this because I've seen this in my life countless times. Self-pity never works. It's easy. But it doesn't work.
I guess my point is that I have to make a choice: Am I going to wait till people treat me "right" to jump into the church or will I decide to love the people around me because I know God's love for me and these people deserve it just as much as I do. The first choice will leave me disappointed and the second choice will bring me one step closer to Christ.
Living life with people is hard. Everyone will disappoint you at one point. But Christ came and died for the church and he already promised the church will prevail. So I have to believe it will prevail.