Today, in the heat of the day, I felt some of the Bride's humanness, her "messy grace" as coined by Luke Timothy Johnson, the wounds inflicted on a sister in Christ. Okay, two sisters in Christ. (Who am I kidding to say I've not felt it?)
Sitting in the shade like mothers do, we watched kids play and overheat. When friends had caught up enough to breathe again (both of the young and old version), we passed out water bottles and sandwiches.
In the midst of red cheeks and watermelon juice, I sat and remembered when we ourselves became friends, some twenty years ago. It was boys and laughter and finding Jesus at summer camp, none of which are unimportant today. We witnessed vows, held bouquets...then watched babies grow in bellies, compared birth stories, shared Scripture in a small group.
And I am sad once again, at the place we are now - idle talk of children and education and camping trips...All because the Church - at least the organized one - has severed. She's on "one side" and I'm on "the other." And the chasm seems so wide with words like "doctrine" and "sanctification" and "the whole counsel of God" separating us.
So we meet at a neutral playground and I nag children to be careful on the ladder, re-lace shoes, all in awkwardness. And all because of that Bride. The one that shows her humanity with differing "fundamentals" and severed, limping leadership.
We are too close to avoid the subject for long, too many years in this family of Christ. I can't even remember how we finally get there, but we do. Like children dipping their toes in cold water, tentatively, we share some of our hearts and hurts, keeping one another before ourselves, never venturing far. We ignore doctrine, both of us knowing that smarter folk than us haven't figured it all out, so we don't risk it. It wouldn't be profitable anyways (Hebrews 13:9). Speaking only for myself, I let go of any need to change her mind, point out areas where things could have been done differently. She seems to do the same for me.
Smiling shyly, I thank her for giving me the time I needed, before we could try out life for the first time in two different churches. And I quickly point to the Source, the very Groom Himself! - who has brought us together. Then, before I can wimp out, I awkwardly confess my sisterly love for her, no matter what.
"Jesus unites us. Isn't that miraculous?!!" I say with excitement.
Immediately I stop, wondering if I have offended her. Is the careful walk on eggshells ruined? But she only smiles and agrees. My eyes fill and I touch her arm.
"It's truly amazing, this love He gives us...I sound like a hippie!" I quip.
She laughs and adds, "No, you sound like a Christian."
And so I do! So does she. Supernaturally. There is no acting, no room to boast in one's amazing talent to love and forgive another. It's not from her or me, only Him - the Groom that makes the Bride beautiful. And brings two lifelong friends to awkward, then refreshing, reunion.
There is no "them and us" mentality when the Groom intercedes, indwells. The Groom is the very core of His Bride's goodness and although she has certainly done her share of damage in this world, these are not of Him - the holy Crusades, American slavery, any harsh words of religion and dogma that are void of His Life.
But just as Jesus breathes mercy and grace into my very own life, He also breathes mercy and grace into His Bride. Love, the supernatural kind that flows from Him working through us, covers a multitude of sins, my own and those of some I'd otherwise judge.
When it's over, I pull the Red Rider wagon back to our house, loaded with empty Tupperwares and sleepy kids. But my heart is light.
Because the Groom has supernaturally given healing and love to a Bride that I would have discarded long ago.
If you have been hurt by the Church, might I gently encourage you not to give up on it completely? Jesus Himself hasn't given up on his Bride, the church, and still encourages us to gather together as family. And if there are folks that have planted themselves (or you have planted them) on "the other side," might you consider a refocus from them to Him?
He is Real! I've watched Him work on His Bride, the one that He considers beautiful and worth dying for even when she seems to hurt and hinder His work. Come to think of it, I've watched Him do the same for me.
Resting in This,