If the Church is really the Bride, I’ll admit I’ve wanted a divorce for a few years now.
She isn’t who I thought she was 20 years ago when I said, “I do.” She hasn’t been kind, either –to the people outside of her club, to those who question or doubt, to me.
And, so, I’ve essentially lived in an off-again-on-again state of separation from this dysfunctional being that is the American Church for a solid two years now. She tells me I don’t look or act or think or believe rightly. She sells me a promise of community, and then sits me in a pew facing forward. She takes my money, but hides the Jesus I adore. And every time I muster the hope to try again, she disappoints. So like a scorned spouse, I’ve walked away from her power, her manipulation, her legalism. Her abuse.
But here’s the thing about the disgruntled and hurt partner whom I’ve become, sitting outside with arms crossed and denying the inherent good mixed with the ugly, I haven’t found life or hope or joy in that space either. I thought I’d divorce and walk away completely to find nobility and freedom, but instead what I’m finding is cynicism, bitterness and a tendency to cast the stones right back.
But here’s the thing– the person this potential divorce is hurting the most is . . . me.
Disbelief in the Bride’s redemption is leaving me lonely, prideful and self-righteous. Cynicism of her role to play in my own life and in bringing light to the world has left me with my back turned in the counselor’s chair–closed, hardened. Done.
And try as I might to excuse it, this posture doesn’t remind me of Jesus, either. I don’t get to love the world and hate the Bride. I don’t get to cast unconditional grace on other lovers but deny it to my own family.
Because Jesus had this wild plan for the evolving beauty of His church, and he wants me part of it. And I can’t claim to follow him if I divorce the one he’s redeeming for Himself– not the institution or the doctrine, the method or the damage– but the idea of her, the vision of her.
Following Christ might not mean living under the same old roof, the same old system with the Bride; perhaps periods of separation can be redemptive.
It does mean, however, leaving the lawyer’s office with the signature line intentionally left blank.
“There is a song for my family, Outside the walls of Sunday Morning from some within.
This is a song to confess our sins, Lay it all out, and try to begin again.
To hope again.
Please forgive our ignorance, In looking down on you,
Please forgive our selfishness, For hiding in our pews while the world bleeds.
While the world needs us to be what we should be.
This is a song for my family who, Just can’t believe in the Jesus that you’ve seen on Sunday morning.
This is a song for the cynical saints, The burned out and hopeless.
The ones that we’ve cast away, I feel your pain.
Please forgive the wastefulness of all that we could be
But don’t forget, there’s more than this
Her beauty still exists
His bride is still alive
His bride is still alive.”
– Gungor, Song for My Family
On an unrelated note, this post gave me a new sympathy for our heterosexual brothers who struggle with the imagery of Christ as the Groom. I get it now, guys, I get it.
Also, an earlier, unedited version of this accidentally got into my RSS feed yesterday- sorry about that. Ignore that one, and thanks for your internet-grace.