So, it seems that I have somewhat accidentally started a book club, birthed from the sentiment that if you want something and can't find it, you should make it for yourself. Tonight, I'm meeting with my friend Emily, who happens to be the groups coordinator at our little church, to discuss the particulars, but starting in mid-September, my Thursday evenings will consist of homemade food and dog eared pages with friends both old and new.
Honestly, I didn't have much say in the matter. Within five minutes of my bringing it up to Emily, she took the liberty of inviting two people. Then, of course, there's God, who, in his unrelenting pursuit of me and my busted up heart, has been kneading answers into my prayers and asking me to do hard things when it comes to growing community and blooming where I'm planted. I told another friend that I'm both excited and scared: this feels a bit like going off the deep end, but more like taking back ground from the devil. Where those two meet up is always the starting line for good ideas.
Besides, if you ask me, the best church services happen in living rooms over chips and salsa.
The last thing I wrote here was about soul-hospitality, and the kind of revival that can only come through vulnerability and offering up the messiest and most fractured pieces of myself. I penned those words for a laundry list of reasons, the gist of which added up to the fact that we've lived here for a year now, and I don't feel any closer to what my heart knows that church and community should be. The past twelve months have seen me weary and worn down from spinning my wheels and living a try hard life.
I had all sorts of plans to fix myself. I would lose the weight and buy all the cute clothes, find quirky wall art and construct a Pinterest worthy gallery wall, market my blog like a pro and gain lots of followers, toss more money in the offering bucket at church, volunteer more. The truth is, I’ve been picking up whatever fig leaves I can find in an attempt to look more whole than I actually am.
The paradox is that it is only when I lay down my masks and become more fully myself that there can be less of me and more of Jesus.
The most potent truth of all is that what I'm really missing is Jesus. There have been days, some more recent than I care to admit, when I have begged him through sobs to show up. It isn’t that I haven’t been looking for him all this time. I’ve just spent my entire life looking for him in all the wrong places. I believed I would find him within the realm of my own comfort and safety.
Suffice it to say, he has rarely, if ever, resided there. And slowly but surely, he is tearing down my walls, meeting my resistance with loving kindness.
The other day, the man and I were talking about church, both our little body and the body collective. Hesitantly, I admitted that for all the things that keep me wrapped, there are also a handful of things that I desperately wish were different.
I wish there were easy answers for how to navigate community with broken people. Most of the time, I'd settle for somewhat difficult ones. But Jesus wasn't known for showing up with blue prints. Instead, he turns everything we think we know on its head. Because he knows that the deepest need of our hearts isn't a formula -- the deepest need of our hearts is him.
And then, he put some skin in the game by offering himself.
He met people smack dab in the middle of their mess, unafraid of getting his hands dirty and not the least bit intimidated by the second mile.
He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.
I don't mean to make a big production out of a simple ladies' book club. I'm not parading around under the assumption that it will somehow change the world, I'm simply praying that it will change mine.
I'm tired of the rat race, exhausted from seemingly endless days spent pining for the approval that is already mine. And anyway, the last thing I need is gold stars and applause (though let's be honest, I crave them like an addict).
No one needs my formula and ten point plan to better myself -- least of all, me. So I'm giving it up, leaving it on the side of the road so I can better walk in step with Jesus, loving as he loves.
The kind of love that doesn't give up on broken things.
I was graciously given an advanced copy of my friend Shannan Martin's new book, Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. I was not required to write a review, but upon finishing it, my heart couldn't not share it with you. Reading her words felt like breaking bread with a trusted friend, the kind that dares you to leave your comfort zone and loves you enough to not let you get away with making any excuses. What's more, she cheers you on, acknowledging that it isn't always the biggest leaps that count the most, but the baby steps taken in faith. When you walk away from an encounter with someone who has been with Jesus, you're never the same. Shannan is one of those people for me. You can preorder her book Falling Free today, or find it on a shelf near you on September 20. And if you're curious, we will most definitely be reading it for the book club.