Church Without the Junk
JULY 25, 2023
It’s hard for me to find a church.
I want to, but when I go, I just end up leaving angrier than when I came. The judgment, the silly rules, the passive-aggressive jabs. It’s even weirder when you’ve been on the inside like I have. You see things more clearly. Know all the tricks that cause you to feel like you have to fake it.
Some friends and I got together the other night to talk about that. How we could maybe get that need met with each other. The Church without the junk. Well, not that kind of junk anyway—not the plastic kind. But full to the brim with the real deal. All those socially unacceptable, irreligious ideas. That night was when I realized that’s what I’d been longing for all along.
The superficial judgment I felt in church, the rules I balked at, and the jabs that made me want to jab back weren’t the main things keeping me away. They were symptoms. They were walls that kept me from my soul’s need to unburden itself.
In my relationship with God, I found freedom. I found permission to tell the truth, because a) God’s not fooled by my self-righteous act, and b) God loves me anyway. It was no wonder that I wanted that from the local gathering of fellow Christians that I attended: The freedom to share the unshareable.
It’s only unshareable because we’ve so spiritualized our churches that we can’t actually be honest with one another. We have to fake it. I don’t want that anymore. Frankly, I don’t need that anymore. It makes me soul-sick. (There’s a vast difference between loving correction and nitpicking, moralistic narcissism.)
Our hearts yearn to be heard without fear of judgment. Our souls feel tight and cramped in the phony religious box in which we’ve allowed ourselves to be placed. True worship flourishes in raw truth. When we dump our doubts and fears out on the floor, a warm, wet mess for all to see, and watch them shrivel and die in the light, a song of praise finds our tongues.
Our deepest hurts lie hidden because we refuse to acknowledge that others can bear them. We refuse to acknowledge that they even exist so—like unseen plaque in our arteries—they build up like a dam, threatening death to our faith and fellowship.
To openly hurt, to stand naked for all to see, is no easy feat. It takes Gospel guts. It takes full knowledge of God’s love for us, and that he has paid for our sins. That Jesus’ death wasn’t a band-aid, but the full cure.
To have those that accept us with no judgment as we stand before them, every blemish visible, is a gift beyond measure. In Genesis, God looked at his perfect creation and said something was missing. He said, it’s not good for man to be alone. Was that an accident? Did God forget to add a dash of self-sufficiency? Of course not. We were purposefully made to need others.
That need is where our desire to be heard comes from. It is the very reason we have that place in us that we store it all. We’re waiting for someone who will listen. We’re waiting for open ears and open hearts. It’s the only thing that will allow us to shrug off that burden.
And don’t just unpack. Look for opportunities to take part in the wonderful, filthy business of helping unpack the pain of others also.