Friday, November 20, 2015

The Road Home?

I wish it were this simple to find your way home. A signpost pointing in the right direction would be such a relief. That rarely, if ever, happens for any of us.

Early in my life I thought knew where I was going. I had one goal. I wanted to be a wife and mother. That was pretty much all. I wanted to write, but that was already a part of me, it wasn't a goal.

Once my husband died and the children left home, I had to redefine myself. It hasn't worked very well. I'm completely lost and in the dark about who or what I am and where I belong. In recent weeks, I've started questioning some things and I've come to understand some of why I feel this way. Let me explain the two recent experiences that brought about this more recent sense of dislocation. They aren't good.

I don't get out much these days due to health issues, I miss too much church. I see no one during the week, no calls from anyone except family. So, I get pretty hungry for human contact. When I feel well, I search for ways to connect with people online and I do have some really great people, far from where I live, who email and chat. I really get hungry for Christian contacts. I try and feed myself spiritual food by watching videos of ministers. I also watch videos that show up on Facebook by random Christians talking about God, giving these little sermons. Some are uplifting. YouTube is a great resource for Christians who are cut off. Facebook, not so much.

But then I get those who had lemons for lunch. They spout a lot of rhetoric. They tell me I should be on the street, on the job, in the store, or at the shore talking to people and telling them about God. After about half a dozen of those, I come away, not lifted up, but feeling like week old pasta. I suck as a Christian. I spend the next half hour beating myself up for being a horrible failure of a Christian. I want God to be pleased with me so bad, that a total stranger can bring me to tears with their criticism of my failures. Yeah, it's crazy.

The reality is, despite my love of conversation, I'm not an orator. I don't like giving speeches and talking to strangers. I can do it, and I do it well when pressed, but I'm much more comfortable with a pen and paper or a computer keyboard. My blogs are the forums I'm most comfortable with when it comes to telling people something, whether it be about writing, my faith, or my life. It is just very easy for me to write rather than talk. Moving among living people is very hard for me.

Several years ago, when I had a life, I told my aunt that I wish God would stop sending me these dysfunctional people to deal with. It was as if there was this portal near me and they just kept popping out. I'd spend time talking to them, encouraging them, and telling them how special they were to God and praying for them.

I couldn't explain it, but there was a seemingly endless supply of them. My sons would date them. I'd meet them through work. I'd meet them in activities I participated in. They'd find me at church. Always, I'd take them under my wing. Because at heart, I'm just a nice person who hates to see anyone feel like last week's pasta. They liked me and I'd become stressed at their distress. And often, I'd see them drift off, down the same road they came in on, Lost. 

Yet here I am, feeling completely inadequate as a Christian and a human being because I wasn't dragging my cross around the city, with a sign that says "Repent for the end is at hand!"  I mean, I really felt horrible.

This experience made me feel like I'm just worthless. I've battled that devil for most of my life. I'm useless, worthless, inept, and inadequate. The feeling of constantly searching for meaning is exhausting and debilitating. I don't have a fix for it. I pray about it and I think the Lord does help me with it, but you know that thing is just waiting around the corner to jump you.

I could make excuses, but I usually end up beating myself up because I make excuses. So that never works for me. Instead, I measure myself by someone else's standard of how I should behave. And you know what? I feel horrible because I'm so far short of what it means to be a Christian!

The second experience was a surprise. I can't stand Christians who loudly tell you what you're supposed to be doing but who don't follow their own rants. Someone on Facebook recently felt it was appropriate to talk about the failings of a member of their church. Several other members joined in, agreeing with the poster. No names were mentioned, but it was evident from the comments that some of them knew who the poster was referring to. I suppose because no names were mentioned they felt that was acceptable behavior. Most of the people involved consider themselves ministers. In their eyes, I'm pretty certain they thought they were justified and having another church member for lunch was acceptable.

Let me just first say, it wasn't acceptable. It was a disgrace. But it took me a minute to get there, cause they're "ministers". We don't criticize ministers. But I was horrified by what I saw and the more I thought about it, the more horrified I became. At what point did this sort of chastising become acceptable?

The Bible says if you have a fault with your brother or sister you are to go to them. If they reject you, you are to bring them before the church. If that doesn't' work you're to disfellowship them. The Bible is very clear here. At no point does it say drag them before the court of public opinion. Exactly when and where did it become acceptable to substitute Facebook for the Word when dealing with member's failings? Or anyone's failings? Who died and made any of those people God?

All I could think of was how many unchurched folks would see that post? What would they think about the Christians involved in it? How does this affect the ministry? The members of the same church? What does it do to the church as a whole? Why would anyone voluntarily repent of their sins if their failings are to be aired like dirty laundry on the Facebook clothes line? Why would anyone go to a church where that is the practice? Unless they like eating the friends.

Then, I remembered my feelings of worthlessness and abandonment. I realized that perhaps it isn't surprising. If Christians can't follow sound Biblical instruction, if they can't heal the wounded, if their own are a target for vituperation, how can we reach hurting, lost people? And we wonder why there is a decline in church attendance?

I suddenly understand with new clarity Isaiah 5:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The sheep are the church.

No wonder that most of the time I feel like I'm on the Lost Road trying to find my way back Home.