A few weeks ago, I told my friends that I hated the Church. Christians were pissing me off left and right and I felt pulled into every controversy there ever was and I was tired. I wanted to find a way out of my cynicism, but hating was easier. I talked a big game about wanting to love my neighbor as myself, but really, I just loved myself and I loved the people who hated the same folks I did.
It's easy to find affinity with the angry.
I came face to face with my loathing after reading a post from Beth Moore, a woman who many would call their spiritual mother & guide. She talked about hating other Christians and throwing stones and how loving was better. She was writing about the hateful group of people who threw insults at Rick Warren after the death of his son - a group of which I wasn't a member, thanks be to God - but it struck home all the same and made me realized I hated what I'd become.
So, I told my friends I read the post and the person that Mrs. Moore wrote about was me, in many ways.
Amber told me, "You need to talk to Seth," so I did and he told me about when he hated the Church, too. He went through his whole story of hurt and pain and how yeah, he probably did have good reason to hate the Church, but that wasn't the problem in the end.
He told me what the problem was: He made an idol out of the Church. And when we make idols out of anything that isn't Jesus himself, we're prone to bitterness and anger and cynicism, because those idols will surely fall from those tall pedestals upon which we place them.
Later that day, I was thinking about his story while I was folding the 7th load of laundry that afternoon. I held the t-shirts under my chin while I folded the arms in and with every piece of cotton added to the pile, I felt a tightening in my chest.
I grabbed the stack of Erik's shirts and placed them in his middle drawer. I slid it shut and with a quiet thud, I knew I needed to confess it.
I did it, too. I made an idol out of the Church and she fell from her tall shelf in my heart and shattered. The problem wasn't that she fell. She was never meant to be up there in the first place. The people who have cut me the deepest are the ones that claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and I just don't get how it could be so. It turns out I confused wanting to be like Jesus with actually being Jesus. The people that hurt me were the former, but I treated them and held them as the latter.
I hit my knees right there in my dimly-lit closet and I didn't know what else to do but push my face to the floor, my cheek resting on the piled carpet.
I cried. Hard.
I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand the Holy Spirit, but after some time on the floor shedding big fat tears, I felt like I could get up. And when I stood up and wiped my eyes, I felt new and whole. Restored. It was an odd feeling, the desire for repentance. Never before have I wanted to get up and run 180 degrees in the opposite direction of who I was before.
That evening, Erik and I sat on our front porch with a couple of beers while Rowan played and flirted with the college girls who live next door. I told him everything - the hatred, the anger, the cynicism, the idolization, the crashing and burning, the turning towards repentance. I told him I was different and the tears flowed again and he said "Well, what are you going to do?" I said I wasn't sure and he immediately pointed me to prayer.
And so, for the first time, I'm praying for those who have hurt me, and I'm praying for those I've hated. I'm praying for the Church and I know that she's a special blend of messy and beautiful. I'm reminded of the power of the Gospel as I've reached out to those on the other side of some bridges I've torched with my bitterness and anger. I've been offered forgiveness and love when I don't deserve it.
I don't have it all figured out, I'm still trying to fumble my way through it and I'm learning that repentance is a daily, minute-by-minute choice. There's no magic button that makes your struggles vanish with the wind.
Day by day, I'm leaning into it, being reignited by a personal revival. And by the grace of God, I just might see a full recovery from cynicism after all.