During my time off, my friend Rachel Clarke sent me a piece she wrote about the “big C” church and her relationship with the local church throughout the years. She sent it to me during some of the more difficult days and it encouraged me to continue fighting for relationships within the context of the local body. So I asked her if she’d be willing to post it on our blog and graciously she said yes. Committing to a local body is a risk and requires faith. As you read this, I pray it increases your heart for the Bride of Christ - both the “big C” church and our local expression.
My Fraudulent Marriage with the Bride of Christ
To say my relationship with the church has been tumultuous is an understatement. Disappointments, hurt, and not to mention, unmet expectations have all been apart of my time in church. I have taken my ball and gone home more times than I care to admit.
We first met (the Bride of Christ and me) when I was in college and we had a fast and furious courtship. We married in a small ceremony in the side yard of a Methodist student center. There I was dunked (baptized that is) in a horse trough of ice cold water. I was raised to newness of life. I even had a Paul, a person to disciple me, and Paul played the djembe. My optimism and ideals were impossibly high. Little did I know I was setting Her (the church) up to fail from the very start.
I pulled her along trying to make her who I wanted her to be. Buying her clothes that didn’t fit. Picking apart all her flaws and focusing on all she wasn't. Demanding she conform to my way of thinking, worshiping, serving. I was graceless.
Storming off. Empty promises. Threats of divorce. Counseling. Vow renewals. Separation.
Then during the time when I was most intertwined with her I had the mother of all conflicts. Everything from the last 15 years came spewing out a volcano of pain and anger. I’d had enough. I left screaming obscenities and slammed the door so hard the house shook.
And it was valid.
My anger and hurt. My offense and judgment. My reasons for leaving. My raging disappointment.
Well, they would have been valid, save for Calvary.
When we put Jesus in His proper place He sets all things right.
I came to realize I was never married to the church because I am a part of the church. Her flaws are mine. Her faults mine. Her redemption mine.
And the church is the Bride of Christ. The church never owed me anything. That is because we all married way up when we entered this thing. We owe all to Christ our Redeemer. I came out on the other side of this pseudo-divorce with clarity. And like when my husband Matt and I have been through tests and trials of all kinds after the smoke has cleared I have a greater measure of grace for him and for myself. A deeper affection that comes with understanding. The kind of commitment that comes through forgiveness, through repentance, and through humility.
I could have started over rebuilt somewhere else but without the understanding of who the church is and who I am in the church I would end up in a vicious cycle of repeating the whole process over and over again until I enter heaven only to learn I missed the point. I missed the abundance and peace that comes from being part of the body of Christ.
I would have missed gathering on Sunday with the body lifting our battered and homesick hearts unified around the one thing we can all agree on. Jesus is good. He is God. He sustains us. Heals us. He applies the balm of grace on the wounds we inflict on ourselves and others.
It's not a perfect body. It probably doesn't always eat clean. It probably has its fair share of scars and marks. But it is redeemed and made holy and washed clean by the blood. It is an honor to inhabit for the rest of my days. Until we are on the shores together made perfect in glory and we will look around and knowingly smile because we ran the race together. Flawed, limping at points, and wanting to give up at times, but we are still together. Because of His goodness.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.