This weekend some of my favourite people in the world and I climbed some mountains, camped under a tarp and set fire to a lot of wood. I left all of my technology at home. Because it is both distracting and liberating, but I wanted to be fully there so I didn’t even take a book or a journal. I love when you get a bunch of dudes out into nature around fire with a few beers, some meat and a dark night. Conversation turns to hilarious and deeper things then you first realized could come out. We spoke of many things that get discussed on a bucks. Girls, sex, farts, how we were going to be pooping in the forest, fire, explosions and then after a while discussion turns to relationships, God, why we exist, learning stuff, then of course we argue about a whole bunch of things and then like old nanas we fell asleep earlier then we thought. In amongst it all there were some stand out themes. And the themes were awesome to listen to because the group was from varying current life experience. We had everything from full-time missionaries and dudes going to two churches to a guy who doesn’t believe God exists, but agrees that people are worth dying for and two fathers of two who crave community but seem to over look that they already have it.
Boring Christians who don’t deserve our trust.
One of the big themes that came up was that many church groups seem to be peopled by really boring faceless drones who seem overtly goody two shoes and aren’t all that welcoming of trust or intimacy. The comment was made that he didn’t want to become boring. The speaker didn’t feel spiritual at all. He craved community, he craves intimacy, but felt he couldn’t find it amongst people he didn’t want to hang out with nor trust enough be real with. To struggle through reality with. Because everyone seems to put on this face at church like “I’m doing fine and I’m more spiritual then you”
As I was listening to the guy a felt like punching everyone in the face. The guy speaking was a man I have lived with and looked up to for years because of the depths of his soul. He thinks deeper and wider then most I know, he is honest about who he is, but it does take a while for him to trust enough to open up. I feel like a lot of people in my generation are in a similar position. They enter church buildings and see no opening for intimacy. They see no reason to commit to a group of people who seem uncommitted to them. So it’s this weird cycle. We are uncommitted. Because we are either too committed to our own stuff or we struggle to trust because of past un-trustable groups and people. Keeping us all isolated, wanting something we don’t feel we can ever attain or deserve.
And I feel like in Australia its even worse because we have an ingrained spirit of “tall poppy syndrome” to deal with that most of us don’t realize or fight against. So the cycle gets even bigger. We grow up distrusting the church because they didn’t deliver on the intimacy we felt should’ve been its mission statement. The church continues to grow, the pastor seems more and more successful so we internally chop his tall poppy down. We write off all of the believers at that church and it then gets easier for us to write off people because we feel in our rights to do so. I say ‘we’ because I’ve seen it. But I will swap to my own story. I grew so distrusting of congregations and pastors that I knew were wrong that I decided to be my own church. I would wake up and spend hours by myself with God in my back yard. It was glorious. I learnt a lot and fed my elitism to my right-ness. But I was missing something. Something I was built for. OTHERS. (This story isn’t just my own. Whilst walking over a mountain I heard a friend recite the same story almost word for word behind me about his own journey)
I once heard relationships explained as a table, and one of the legs was trust. It was the easiest leg to break and one of the hardest to rebuild. If we don’t trust, we find it hard to share and be intimate with each other. So as we walked up and over this hill I heard this discussion that looped back forward about how certain groups of Christians seem fake or boring or un-trustable, and certain communities don’t sit right. I want to write more about this but I want to leave this part with two examples of trustable community attempted to empower change.
Alcoholics anonymous. A group of people who have usually hit rock bottom and are committed to change. Committed to fight their way out of addiction but need help and community to get out of it. The meeting opens with admission – this is what I am, this is what I am celebrating (I’ve been clean for) Then they discuss successes, and have a direct support partner. There is no condemnation, there seems to be a camaraderie that enacts victorious change in each other.
Could church look like AA? We all need help. We all need to feel like we can be honest with each other. We seem to need structure around how we do these things. We all seem to need a direct purpose for our meetings. Theres this chat site on the internet that pairs you with a stranger and asks you a question to discuss. Once I was given the question – hey your speaking with a stranger why don’t you just tell them all your secrets, it’s not like you’ll ever meet them. So I did. I just unloaded all of the stuff I had done including all my hilarious poop stories from Africa. The person I was speaking to, did the same, and, in the midst of it, she stopped and was like “wow, no one has ever been this honest with me before. This is kind of cool.” And it seemed like, because we were both being completely honest that it got rid of any judgements.
Is it our quickness to judge each other that keeps us back from trusting and sharing and being victorious?
Is it a secret elitism that feels like others should share first? Or that no poppies can grow higher than us? What would happen if instead of chopping the taller poppies, we fed the poppies fertilizer so they and us grew taller?
The other example is catholic confession. I have never done it. I don’t really understand it. But what I imagine it to be is – walking into a darkened box room and getting everything off your heart. Getting rid of guilt and shame, cleaning your conscience out. The priest would then give you a response to God to complete and you would leave lighter and forgiven. Sometimes I feel like people feel more judged by the church and church meetings then not. We leave congregational meetings not feeling convicted but feeling filled with shame. Now I’m not leaving blame anywhere. Because we ourselves sometimes hold onto guilt when all we need to do is trust that God has taken it away. But could church be a place where we come to each other for prayer and healing and leave light and forgiven? Sometimes guilt feels like a tree forcing us into shade when all we need is Gods sunlight on our faces. Instead of cutting the poppies down could we instead be in the business of tree surgery so God can shine into our darkness??