I overheard the following conversation at a restaurant today…
So what does his family do on Christmas?
Well they go to church…
(With disdain): Oh, they’re THOSE kind of people…ugh.
Ouch. My heart instantly felt defensive. And then I remembered how I had the same feeling about church-goers years ago and my heart began to soften. And I began to wonder what that lady experienced that made her lose respect for church people?
Maybe church people treated her badly? Maybe she knows more about what the church is against than what it is for? Maybe she feels that God has abandoned her or that He is too good to be true or that he is not a good God who cares about people…because what about hate and death and cancer and war and poverty and terrorism? Maybe she experienced some difficult things that left her feeling that she needed to put up walls around her heart and fend for herself. Maybe she thinks God is just a myth or a crutch for weaker people.
Whatever the reason, I get it. Maybe lots of us can understand these sentiments? Maybe, like I once did, you think church people are ignorant or hypocritical or narrow-minded? Maybe, like I did, you think God has abandoned you and you want nothing to do with Him. And, though I’m ashamed to admit I felt this way, maybe you think Christians were fake and too good for the rest of us? Maybe you think that church people have it all together and you wouldn’t fit there because your life is a mess? Maybe, maybe, maybe…I understand because I’ve been there too.
But you know what the Truth is? Church, at its best, is a place for messed up and broken people to come together, admit their brokenness, and seek out healing. Church is full of sinners and church is for sinners. And church people can be wrong or mean or bad or hurtful just like anyone can be. Jesus came to seek the lost and heal the sick and fix the broken. And that means church people too. We go to church because we’re a mess, not because we have it all together. We are all in process.
At my church we have great music, amazing teaching, an awesome kids ministry, small groups, outreach programs, and some of the most wonderful God-honoring people I’ve ever met in my life. The resources and support we’ve received as an adoptive family have been incredible and life-giving. It is wonderful to be in a place so full of people that understand the call to care for the fatherless. I love every part of it. But none of that is why we go there.
Ultimately, our church is where we feel and see and hear and experience the one true God. And this is what church is all about.
Last night I sat in my counseling session overwhelmed by some recent behaviors of my son. Feeling ill-equipped to handle the struggles and feeling embarrassed at some of the behaviors coming out at church. I was feeling unnecessarily guilty about the burden that I was bringing into our Christian community. Even typing that right now I feel a rush of guilt and shame for even thinking that, but I take a risk in sharing it because maybe you’ve been there too? My counselor is a wonderful Christian woman who spent years as an attachment therapist for adoptive families and she is helping me become the best mom (and person) that I can be. I am so thankful for the wisdom and Truth she speaks into me regularly. She stopped me and firmly let me know that what I was expressing was a direct lie from Satan. The best thing I can do for my sons is bring them to church and introduce them to the loving Father who will never fail them. But Satan would love for us to feel embarrassed or discouraged and stop going to church, wouldn’t He? Again I was confronted with the lie of my youth: that church people have it together and that I don’t fit in that category and so I don’t belong there. That lie kept me from God and church for so long, and here it was trying to creep up again.
And so I want to encourage you, if you’re weary of Christians and churches and Jesus, please don’t give up. Don’t give up on God or the church or His people or your soul. I know it’s been a tough year and we’re all a little on edge. Maybe your family has been through the ringer too and you just feel like giving up? Maybe hope is something you’ve long forgotten about? Maybe hope is a distant and dreamy feeling that is so clouded by pain and heartache and anger and confusion and maybe even a little apathy? But please keep seeking Him and keep seeking a place where you and your family can get to know Him.
I would love for you to choose church this Christmas. But most of all…more than wanting you to choose church, I want you to choose Christmas. The true Christmas. The Christmas of a little baby, long foretold, born in a manger, sent to die but destined for glory. The baby who grew up to save us all and who rose from the dead and who lives still to this day, chasing after each of our hearts and longing for us to come home to Him. The Christmas that can introduce your family to a God who will never fail them. We can get so caught up in methods and therapies and books and blogs and conferences about adoption and connected parenting and trauma, and so on. And all that is great and important, but on this parenting journey who better to consult than the author of our children’s hearts? The One who knit them together, the One who was with them long before we were. The One who knows their pains and their struggles intimately and the only One that can truly bring true healing to their precious hearts.
Church is for you, adoptive and foster families, because Jesus is for you.
If you’re thirsty this Christmas, choose church. Choose Jesus. Choose hope. And choose Christmas.
There’s healing, there’s freedom, there’s more than enough for everyone.