“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” This is my usual chant every Sunday morning. I’m usually the last one flying out the door, often not ever being fully “ready.” My husband tells me I’m late because I plan on being late. I (usually) bite my tongue and think “I’m the one making sure everyone else is getting ready.”
Or I tried to fit in a quick game of Scramble with Friends.
Either way, I’m usually not early. Usually not fully put together. And often my kids can be seen in sweat pants or mismatched ensembles. We usually are not Christmas card perfect on a Sunday morning. Especially on the drive to church (can I get an Amen?)
A few weeks ago I was running especially behind and I decided my half put together self would have to be okay once again. As I flew into the van I noticed my husband still had a bleeding chin from an early morning shaving accident. As we drove to church I was trying to get the bleeding to stop. As we pulled into the parking lot with minutes to spare I proclaimed “you cannot go into church like that” (that being bleeding profusely). I searched my purse for a band aid. All I could find was a large purple band aid. My triage mind thought a) we go inside and he just keeps wiping away the bleeding, b) I throw on the big purple Band-Aid, or c) we run home so I can get some proper equipment to stop the bleeding. Even in my half put-together state, a purple Band-Aid to the face did not sound like a viable option.
So by the time husband was all patched up we were late. Really late. And half put together. We were a frustrated quartet. And slightly embarrassed.
I often wonder about the pressures of Sunday morning. Not just the pressure to get out of our pajamas and tame the bed head, but the pressure to walk in to church like everything is okay. We often put on the appearance that all is well, inside and out. That façade does more than just make church a place where we strive to keep up with the Jones’s. It makes it a place where it’s difficult to be real with the stuff in your life.
Church can be a lonely place to be when walking through a dark time. Maybe it’s a prodigal child or spouse, an addiction, a mental illness, a job loss, abuse, financial distress, broken relationships, doubts…the list could go on. But there are so many areas where it’s really hard to reach out and share our stuff when that stuff carries with it a stigma. Going through cancer with a loved one is hard, real hard. But within the church you’ll usually have no shame in putting your loved one on a prayer list or organizing meals for the family. Yet if your loved one is struggling with a mental illness, the stigma that would cause others to shy away from you or your loved one often ensures such struggles are endured in silence and isolation.
We often want to just cling to the polished side of ourselves. Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees: “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27, NASB). We worship the polished version of ourselves, a polished version of the church, yet often fail to acknowledge that both within our own lives and the life of the church, there is brokenness. It makes us uncomfortable to acknowledge that life is far from rainbows and unicorns. It may cause us to question our faith or admit that we really don't have all the answers when we deal with some of the messes in life that are not easily cleaned up. We don’t fully carry out Matthew 9:12: “’It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.’”
Jesus came to heal the sick. We often forget that Church is a hospital. Sometimes we are well and God allows us to be caregivers for the sick. Sometimes we are the sick in need of medicine or simply someone to sit and hold our hand.
Often I am both.