The problem with my faith community is that they take the community part seriously. The people at my church don’t know how to ignore a sister who walks in pretending she is wearing an invisibility cloak. They still hand you a precious piece of art created to show you God, art that is beauty when all you can see is ugliness. They hug you, ignoring your crossed arms and furtive eyes, they don’t ask how you are, they already know. Instead they say they care about you, they are praying for you. They know you have run out of prayers.
When you paste on a smile and hand out bulletins, this community includes people who call you aside and share that they are broken as well and ask for a hug. What is wrong with these people, meeting you right where you are? When you sit outside of service, avoiding music that may penetrate your armor, play mindless games on your phone to communicate you are not to be approached, still they come. These people still sit with you, a black sweater and closed body language is not enough to push them away. One of the older members tells you she is too angry to really talk but she prays specifically for you every day. She doesn’t know that you love her from afar. Another young woman sits by you, this young woman you have watched grow from a tween into this amazing woman of faith with poise and beauty, who sings God into your soul. You didn’t want to hear her voice. Her eyes were wet with unshed tears, she was carrying your pain. How can you tell her to go away when she is someone you always draw near to? What a horrible community of faith.
During the service you actually attend, you ignore the opportunity to share your burdens. You ignore the requests to look around at this community of faith, to see, really see the brothers and sisters. You leave when the music gets too close. You ignore the sermon, try to empty your mind. God can see your crossed arms and angry face. He sends his people to do his work. They listen, this horrible community. Finally thinking you have survived this brush with God, this God who refuses to heal your broken heart, the service ends. A young woman from the praise team approaches and hands you a letter. You are just trying to pack up Legos and Sunday school papers, cups of donuts and orange juice. She wraps you in arms she had just lifted up to God as she carried her song and the congregation to the heavens. She wore no armor, she came straight from the altar to you. Why can’t these people understand you are lost and alone and only going through the motions?
Sunday is a long day, longer than a couple of hours spent at church. When you have a horrible community of faith you have to go home and read a letter so pure it reads like a psalm, a lament, a strapping on of your yoke. Your heart breaks open and begins healing as you hide the letter and then pull it out over and over all day, never dare to read it again, just enough to have it close by. A letter of promises and hope and refusal to allow you to wander away. You have to look at a picture created with love that speaks into your pain but won’t leave you there. No amount of noise can drown out the echoes of those voices who spoke your ache when you couldn’t.
You went to church with a plan to show God just what you think of Him. You might attend but you weren’t going to participate. Apparently He didn’t care if you weren’t full of worship. His horrible community of faith truly are His hands and feet, they are His voice when you can’t hear Him. He knows you will listen to these voices, you will accept these hugs and letters and paintings. These sacred offerings will carry you back into His arms when you are ready. What a horrible community of faith.