we’ve been talking a lot about wounds from the church at the refuge in preparation for our walking wounded gathering, which is this upcoming weekend in denver. i am really looking forward to it & oh do we have some fun stuff planned! we still have a little bit of room if you want to come & haven’t registered yet, do it today.
as we’ve been preparing for it, it is has been interesting how much has been stirred up for me about church.
as you all know, i love the church. it would have been so easy for me to throw in the towel a long time ago if i had only based things on my experience with “the system.” but the truth is that God’s people–together in some way, shape or form, living out the ways of Jesus in real & tangible ways–is sewn into my skin in ways that i don’t think i will ever be able to shake.
at the same time, as much as i love the church, i also hate what it has done–and continues to do–to so many people. i can’t stand the way it limits people. i can’t stand the way it serves itself. i can’t stand the way it excludes. i can’t stand the way it reflects the powers of the world instead of the beatitudes-infused-kingdom-of-God. i can’t stand the way it puts programs over people.
my dear friend barb murphy is the founder and director of cans for hope, a grassroots ministry dedicated to raising money to help women heal from sexual abuse & sex trafficking. i heard her speak this past weekend at a ministry event & she shared something very powerful. she said “the things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.”
the things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.
out of almost everything related to “church” the one thing i can’t stand the most is how it limits freedom. i always say that the church of Jesus Christ should be the free-est, least oppressed, most inclusive, most grace-filled place on earth. yet, as we all know, it has the reputation for being the opposite. instead of being a pocket of freedom, many churches are pockets of oppression. limiting half of the population from leading freely. keeping God safely tucked into a man-shaped box. keeping gifts squelched and in the hands of the clergy. spending resources on perpetuating a system that has nothing to do with community & changed lives & healing & transformation and everything to do with mortgages & strategic growth. constantly giving into the gravitational pull toward comfort and making sure the powerful-people-who-give stay happy. assuming people only love God “their” way instead of lots of other wild & beautiful & untraditional ways.
this past saturday evening we talked about gender inequality and the church, and i left so sad (not because of the conversation, my daughter being on the panel sharing freely about this issue will inspire me for a long time!). my sadness came when i intersected yet again with the reality that on the whole “the church” is a terrible reflection of freedom when it comes to this huge issue of gender injustice. the world, with all of its cultural bias against the dignity of women, is actually much further along when it comes to embracing and valuing women than the followers of Jesus Christ are.
in the same way i think churches should just be little pockets of love, i think that pockets of love aren’t really possible without first being a pocket of freedom.
where all people have dignity & incredible value.
where no one is oppressed or silenced or considered less-than because of their gender or race or economic status or educational status or theology or any other things that usually keep people over or under another.
where questions are valued & doubt is honored because we trust in a God who can handle it.
where God is not contained by the limits of man’s teaching.
where each person’s gifts, no matter how big or small, have a chance to be expressed.
where men & women are seen as equals and sit next to each other as brothers & sisters & friends.
so that’s why i’m still in “church.” because the thing i can’t stand, i’m called to fix.
i can’t fix the whole big system. i know i can’t.
but i can refuse to participate in systems that knowingly perpetuate oppression. that’s a small & important place to start. it’s lonely at first, when we make a stand toward freedom, but it’s so worth it later.
and most importantly i can play my small part in fixing the little systems i am part of.
i can help create little pockets of freedom. for me, these are my family, the refuge & the different groups i am part of & the relationships that i am in. none of these are perfect; they are each made up of imperfect human beings, young & old ones, and i know everyone in them doesn’t feel fully free or fully loved all of the time. i don’t, either. we live this side of heaven so i don’t expect that. but regardless of our shortcomings, it’s still possible to play our small part in participating in creating the kingdom of God now by making spaces for freedom. real Jesus-infused freedom.
Jesus “sets the oppressed free” (luke 4:18) & i’m pretty sure this isn’t what he had in mind:
i’m also reminded again of what toni morrison says: “the function of our freedom is to free someone else.”
i hope that we can all bravely step into our freedom & quit letting man-made systems limit us. then, i hope we can use this God-given freedom to free someone else.
and someone else. and someone else.
yeah, a lot of little pockets of freedom, over time, can actually create big ones.
God help us play our small part in creating little pockets of freedom, a reflection of your kingdom in the here & now.
* * * * *
a few other things:
- thanks david hayward at nakedpastor.com for the awesome cartoon.
- i think this is an awesome addition to the list of questions from the downward mobility synchroblog post last week. thanks jeff! // read it here: being loved or being used.
- i’m doing a down we go workshop this afternoon at soularize. if you’re there, come say hi!