A Lot More Beautiful

Art by Casspaintings, click image to visit on Etsy.

Art by Casspaintings, click image to visit on Etsy.

It seems my post about bonding over brokenness versus beliefs hit home for many of you (and set a new record on my blog—thank you!). It also raised the question: So what could the church do better to create connection and community?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Let’s agree that many churches do work hard to provide the kind of openness and safety that invite intimate fellowship.

And of course, beliefs and brokenness aren’t mutually exclusive; you can embrace both, and most Christians I know try to do this.

The point I hoped to raise in that post is that sometimes it seems like we Christians care more about what people believe than we do about loving them. And when “right beliefs” become the basis for inclusion in our fellowships, some of the most broken among us don’t feel welcome.

Maybe this is part of why the church Dave and I go to now has no official creed. In fact, when our pastor baptizes babies, in addition to the traditional things you’d expect to hear, he says, “We will not presume to tell you what you have to believe…”

The first time we heard this, we glanced at each other in alarm. What on earth? Isn’t that the purpose of church—to make sure we believe all the right things—and all the same things—about all the important things?

Up to now, we  hadn’t realized Christ-centered churches like this one existed. Churches that welcome everyone. That care about tradition but don’t double check your doctrine at the door.  That have enough faith to believe that God is present and at work in everyone’s journey.

It was a lot to take in. Yet we also found comfort in knowing that if we decided to stay, we wouldn’t have to agree with anyone’s theological, social, or political leanings in order to worship together, or to be accepted and loved.

We knew we had finally found home there the first time we celebrated Communion. When the pastor held up the loaf of bread and invited us to the Table, something in the way he spoke about Jesus being broken and given brought tears to our eyes.

I’m not saying my church is perfect or even the best. But years later, we’re still there and more involved than ever. Recently, Dave and I got to facilitate a month of adult Sunday school classes around the topic of addiction, recovery, and faith.

The first Sunday, I shared my journey from out-of-control drinking into recovery. Another Sunday, Dave shared his side of the story. We looked at the (dismaying) statistics about the prevalence of addiction. We looked at Scripture (Paul had a thing or two to say about doing—over and over again—the very thing he hated.)

But given the topic, it was such a relief to know no one was evaluating our spiritual correctness or critiquing our theology. We got to be vulnerable about our mistakes and weaknesses, and people responded in kind.

It got me wondering what might happen if we did this kind of thing in church more often. Maybe sharing our actual stories—what life was like, what happened, what life’s like now, and what doesn’t look like it’s freaking ever going to get better even though we’re following Jesus—would help to foster the kind of rich community so many find in recovery.

The power of truth telling to free us and change us can’t be overestimated. And hearing one another’s stories is how we realize we’re not alone, and that it’s okay to be human.

Mysteriously, when we share our shattered and less shiny parts with each other, our differences disappear. Healing happens. Community blossoms. We become a little more whole—and a lot more beautiful.

 

CLICK TO ORDER

CLICK TO ORDER

 

Comments

  1. Oh Heather…you are such a beautiful sister! I LOVE your transparency. Your comment about church is EXACTLY how I feel – we need to love others like God does – no matter what! We need to have the faith that God will sort out everyone’s beliefs. As you know, we can’t change someone else, no matter how loud we shout or how long we speak. Honestly, we can’t even change ourselves without Christ’s help.

    I just wanted to encourage you, especially after reading today’s post. I didn’t find anything at all offensive in your “A Lot More Beautiful” post. It needs to be said – especially in Christian circles. We need to place the onus on God and NOT ourselves for changing the world. We just need to be willing to do what He asks us to do and love the ones He places in our path along the way.

    XOXO Kim

    • Kim, what a wonderful comment! I’m sorry I’m late replying. I just love how you put this, especially: “We need to have the faith that God will sort out everyone’s beliefs. As you know, we can’t change someone else, no matter how loud we shout or how long we speak. Honestly, we can’t even change ourselves without Christ’s help.” So true! Thanks for taking time to encourage me, Kim. Your words meant a lot. Every single comment does. Hugs to you.

  2. Valerie Vicari says:

    Amen, Heather! I appreciate your transparency, I always have :) Please don’t shy away from these topics because of a few that would rather “mind read” what you might have meant, than read what you actually said. I love feeling welcome on your site, I feel the love of a sister in Christ, and as a sister in the program. So grateful to be able to “read” you. God bless you, Heather.
    Valerie :)

    • Valerie, sorry I’m late answering comments here. I won’t shy away, but honestly, I’m not always that great at these “think” or conceptual pieces as I could be. I think they’re important, though. When they come, I won’t hesitate. I am so grateful to have you for a reader, Valerie. That you feel welcome here makes me so happy. Blessings backatcha

  3. Love, love, LOVE this, Heather! I totally agree – the more we share, the more others realize they are not alone and being real is much more important than being perfect.

  4. I LOVE what you shared. Some people NEED their world to be black and white in order to feel safe and secure. Thank you for not being afraid to be more colorful! Color is beautiful :-)

  5. Hello Heather,

    Great post, and I wish I could find a church like yours. However, I am currently more disillusioned with organized religion than ever before. After months of jumping through theological, academic and personal character trait hoops, I was finally hired at a major Christian university to teach English. After, one semester actively teaching, I will be resigning in two weeks at the end of the semester. Like much of organized religion, the administration is more concerned about proper theology, doctrine and personal/private habits then they are about providing quality education to their students. It’s all about obedience and appearances, and adherence to their interpretation of Scripture, than it is about caring, compassionate concern (yeah I know alliteration is a no-no) for their students and their progress and needs. I find this appalling and hypocritical in a “Christian” institution, and I am done.

    Yes, I am a grumpy-bird, but my food is good, and my attitude is gratitude, and I am surrendering to those things I cannot change, and getting the H#!@ away from those things I can’t.

    Smiles and blessings, Nancy

    • Nancy, I’m so sorry to hear this! Unfortunately, it’s so so familiar. It think this tendency is everywhere–the inclination to make rules out of everything and come up with false measures of faith–and it seems like those measure are almost always ones that serve the Ego’s need to be able to say who’s winning, who’s doing it “right,” who is more spiritual, etc. I love your heart friend and I”m sorry it got treated that way, but I’m so so proud of your attitude! You go girl!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Heather, the power of the truth spoken about your church loving community.

  7. I liked many things about this post, but perhaps this most of all: “The power of truth telling to free us and change us can’t be overestimated. And hearing one another’s stories is how we realize we’re not alone, and that it’s okay to be human.” Amen and amen.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I like to think that we have overdone orthodoxy (right belief through doctrine), and most churches have overvalued orthopathy (right feeling-), and we tend to find unity around orthopraxy (right action). Orthopraxy, or liberating praxis is doing and being what Jesus calls us to do and enables us to be.

  9. Heather, you seem to think that by asserting that it doesn’t matter what you believe, you have put yourself above the fray and are no longer concerned about being right. I beg to differ.

    Here is what I hear you saying: “I used to be wrong [when I thought it mattered what you believe]. Now I am right [in thinking that it doesn't matter what you believe]. And if all those other wrong-headed people would start thinking like I do [that it doesn't matter what you believe], the church would be a lot more beautiful.”

    Another way to say it is, “Doctrine is not important. Except for the really, really important doctrine that doctrine is not important.”

    • Ah, Norm. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but I can see where you’d think so. Of course beliefs matter greatly–especially the ones that reside in our gut, in our deepest soul–even more if you ask me than the ones we intellectually assent to or claim to be certain about. I think it’s hard to even define what we mean by “believe” sometimes. I think our true beliefs aren’t revealed by our assertions, but by what we actually do and how we actually live. I think beliefs matter greatly. I just don’t think they should matter to us more than the imperative to love others and live like Jesus. I don’t think they are the same thing as “trust” either. I am often unsure intellectually what ABOUT this passage or that idea or this conundrum. But what matters most to me these days is the kind of faith that is comfortable with mystery and doubt because it is set on such a great God that I don’t require certainty or “rightness” on any doctrinal point into throw myself on God’s mercy and actively rely hon his grace and help and love. Does that make sense? Sorry I am not more articulate about these things. I should probably try to avoid such potentially tricky issues as “beliefs” because as you know I don’t like to argue Scripture or debate theology. Hopefully my next post will be more along the lines of Dave Can Be So Selfish. :)

  10. What’s the name of your church? I have a friend in the Springs that is looking for a church like you are describing!

    • Cool! Have him or her email me at Heather@Soberboots. I’m not sure I want to advertize my specific church here without consulting Dave–and because I don’t want to promote any one denomination, but I’m perfectly happy to respond to the question by email. Thanks for asking, Todd!

  11. catymorris says:

    This reminds me as a child in church there would be times when regular church folks would get up in the pulpit and give there testimony. I have always found that to be very hopeful for me. A couple of years ago there was a trend where church members would parade across the front of the church holding a sign of their particular sins/additions/faults etc. I also thought that was so brave, humbling & freeing. I think it is time for me to find a church that I also can bring my brokenness out in the open in order to be healed. Please pray that God will lead me and my husband to that Christ centered…..freeing community of believers!

    • Testify!! Yes, it reminds me of that, too. The old days when people would get up and tell what God had done for them. Maybe I really am an old-fashioned holy roller at heart. :) I’m so glad to hear you’re thinking about finding a church where you can bring your brokenness out in the open. Fortunately, more of these exist than I ever knew. Thanks so much for commenting!

  12. Betty Taylor says:

    Sadly, there are many Christians that drive people away from the church by their attitude and actions. However, a traditional, liturgical church with an unwavering core of beliefs based on the Word can and should have the same caring, loving welcome to any human being who walks in the door. In fact, doing otherwise is in clear opposition to God’s commands and cause for us to lower our head and ask His forgiveness “one more time.” After all, every one of us is in the same place. God’s free gift of grace applies to anyone willing to accept it.

    • Betty, yes it’s true. You said this well and I so appreciate your taking time to do so. We’re all in need of grace. Amen. And people won’t come join our churches if they feel like they have to qualify first by any measure greater than being thirsty and in need.

  13. “Mysteriously, when we share our shattered and less shiny parts with each other, our differences disappear. Healing happens. Community blossoms. We become a little more whole—and a lot more beautiful.” I’m finding this to be more true than almost anything I know today. Thankful for you!

  14. Marjie Douty says:

    The power of truth telling to free us and change us can’t be overestimated. And hearing one another’s stories is how we realize we’re not alone, and that it’s okay to be human.
    Mysteriously, when we share our shattered and less shiny parts with each other, our differences disappear. Healing happens. Community blossoms. We become a little more whole—and a lot more beautiful.

    Clapping out here in Pennsylvania! And jumping and nodding. Love ya,
    Marjie

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