When we left “the ministry” after our first year of marriage, when Seth started law school and I the MFA in Poetry, we were so church sick, bone-weary soul sick, and we’ve found that this sickness is not unique to us, especially in our online community. More times than not, I’m coming across deep wounds, people left in a numb wake or angry at what should have been but wasn’t.
We had started to say to ourselves that there are only so many times you can watch the innocent fall or we can only swallow so many fakes. We judged the judgers. We made fun of the so-called righteous, said, “we’ll show them,” our secret sin of pride growing thick with jadedness and sarcasm, breeding other secrets.
Underneath was an ache, the desire to belong and be loved, and through a long painful process that continues today, God is showing me and Seth the beautiful church, the mourners, the hungry, the weepers, the lonely.
He surrounded us with what some call a small group (life group or cell group), our Community Group and other friends who live as part of our family. These are people who have experienced such pain and such redemption, coming to us not as the answer to our pain but rather as people who join us in our pain. They join us there, and we sing from low position, how in this world we will have promised trouble, promised peace.
They show me the Not Yet, But Already (the Both/And) of God, how He is still so so good. We scrub house together, even though everything just gets dirty again. God is still so good, though what I used to call the church proved false.
Salvation belongs to the LORD and to no other, they sing it to me. He’s coming for us, they sing it to me. This is His mercy, that all else fails.
Our family, the church, has entered life with us and given us such fresh perspective though they’ve seen with their very eyes last breaths, warring children, slavery, and starvation. Confession is the norm here, doubt, unbelief, struggle.
And as a woman working out my salvation as best I can, I’ve seen gorgeous God unfold in their healed faith, their honesty and humility – oh the beautiful church, there. I’ve had my pride revealed so gently, the hurt break open inside me, so that I long for my heavenly home with such zeal that this world is losing it’s delicious charm.
It is intoxicating to witness Hope, one tiny fleck of scale falling from my eyes at a time.
How we worship, how we don’t ignore the suffering, acknowledge the pain involved in this life and acknowledge the true Christ-Peace in the midst of it. We see each other, and we know it still hurts. We sit together in it – Pain and Peace, all at once. Peace is not pain-free, but the pain is transformed.
Those of us who endure the most pain here – not trying to find a way to keep from it, ignore it, or get around it – those of us who enter and endure it within ourselves and for others, we are the ones in the low trenches. Those of us in last place here, we will one day be first. We see pain in this world now, but I believe a time is coming that we’ll be first to experience what it’s like to be completely whole, when the “not yet” finally Is.
And just knowing that one thing helps us to say that It Is Well With Our Souls.
Praise God for the beautiful church, her (his) beautiful feet! It’s not just what happens on Sunday. This is our small group (it’s to hear, not to watch) on one Wednesday night. We do this every week, and I look forward to it all week long, count the days till I get there.
Tell us your story of the beautiful church. So many of us need to hear it.
By: Amber Haines