Maybe it’s because of the challenges I’ve had with church over the last year. Or perhaps it’s a result of my fatigue wearing me down. But I have been growing frustrated recently, frustrated with the way we present Christianity. I am tired of faith which is parcelled in flawless wrapping paper and tied with a bow, leaving no room for doubts or fears. I am fed up with the lie we inadvertently sell, that being a Christian makes life ‘easier’, and then we are surprise when new believers fall in the first storm.
I want my faith to be planted in and relevant to real life, with all it’s struggles and sufferings. I want to share in a faith that is stripped back and honest.
I don’t care about those ‘Christian’ words and phrases that we throw around until they have no meaning at all. I don’t care for those church response times where we are told that to encounter God we need to stand or raise a arm or a leg or whatever. I have no energy for hype, God is big enough to not need a build up. I am not interested in our weird traditions and expressions that make anyone new to the church feel like an outsider. I hate how we use the bible to tear strips off other churches, different from our own. And how we talk about unity in the church, but we’re only really interested in extending our particular denomination.
I don’t want to be part of communities where we share only our successes and none of our failures, where we feel a pressure to fake a joy we do not feel. We may be falling apart but that doesn’t stop the masquerade of convincing others we’ve got life figured out. I have no time for meaningless small talk, for having conversations where neither of us really care about the answers. I want to go deep, I want to know how you really are. I don’t want superficial Christianity, our token platitudes or empty prayers. I’m not interested in those prayers that we pray because someone is listening, and we want to sound holy. I am tired of the ways that we show off and try to ‘out-christian’ each other. If we’re not careful we can fall it to the trap of spending more time convincing the world we are a ‘good Christian’ than we do figuring out what that even means. I don’t want to be part of a Christianity that doesn’t feed the hungry and comfort the hurting.
I am more interested in the lady who told me she was desperately praying each day for the strength to not self-harm, that this week she had yet to pick up a knife. I am inspired by the bereaved who come to church and sing, with tears streaming down their faces, ‘God, you give and take away’. I want to spend my time with the people who cling to the fact that God is good, but admit that their circumstances are telling them the opposite. I want a faith that isn’t afraid to admit that it’s hit rock bottom, and you are hanging on by your fingertips. A faith that welcomes doubts as an inevitable part of life, that isn’t afraid to encourage each other to adventure and explore for the answers. After all, God created our intellect as much as our bodies.
I want to surround myself with relationships where we bear our hearts with openness and trust. With those who know, that sometimes the biggest gift we can give each other is our lives poured out, in honesty and vulnerability.
I want raw faith.
A faith that is as honest and real, as I am vulnerable and flawed. A faith that is rooted in who I am, unique in my beautiful brokenness. A faith that acknowledges and even embraces my weaknesses, for through them God shows His strength. I want a faith which, whilst not picture perfect, has the grit, determination and substance to see me through. I want to be someone who trusts through the storms, who clings on to hope in the darkness. I want to be real about my struggles, because only through them can I show that my God is bigger than them all.
We were not supposed to put all our effort into building churches, to tie our resources into bricks and mortar. We weren’t supposed to shut ourselves up with other believers and reflect on the terrible state of the world. Or even to spend our lives striving to be ‘good Christians’. That was never the point.
We have been given a hope that has the power to light up the world and we are supposed to share it. The darkness around us is simply an absence of this light. And the whole message of the gospel was that we can never be ‘good’, but God’s grace met us at our worst and weakest. No number of church rotas, volunteering or tithing will change the reality of our sin and our constant need for a saviour. We are not supposed to strive to be good enough for earthly praise, but to reflect that we are loved as we are by our Father, and let that move us onto eternal greatness. Our churches should be full of the lost, the hurting and the broken, for that’s who Jesus came for. And we haven’t understood the gospel if we don’t realise we’re one of them.
I don’t have my life all figured out, and I imagine neither do you. Faith can be messy, hard and painful. But if we strip back all the wrapping paper we’ll find a God with the power to see us through. He is faithful.