So a perfect church is not a thing.
You guys, I wish it was a thing. I sit in the rows of my imperfect church week after week after week, and will it toward perfection. But week after week after week, I am confronted with the reality that perfection within these walls just wont ever be. It is a goal that we will never reach. This isn’t to say I shouldn’t try to do my part to get us there. This is to say that perfection isn’t possible for anyone this side of heaven.
Not to mention that perfection is a super subjective term. My idea of a perfect church would likely make my grandparents pray for my salvation. So there’s that whole garbage heap to wade through when we are talking about this topic.
By perfect I don’t mean it has the very best music. The most comfortable seating. The most engaging preaching, or the best weekday activities. None of that.
I just mean that it is the most like church when God’s kingdom finally and fully does come to earth for good. Meaning that from the pulpit we never hear anything that damages. Meaning that it’s leaders don’t ever unintentionally push people away rather than welcome with an open embrace. Perfection in the sense that hope is always perfectly instilled and perfectly realized within it’s walls, where regardless of skin color, gender, socioeconomic background, qualifications… whatever… we know we are God’s children, and we are important and loved and valued just like everyone else. Just the way God love us all.
And its so frustrating, to be a woman in an imperfect church. I’m sure it’s frustrating to be lots of things in an imperfect church. But the only thing that is hard for me is to be a woman in an imperfect church. It’s my claim to pain. So that’s a lot of what I write about. A lot of what I talk about too for those who are unlucky enough to get trapped in deep conversation with the likes of me. I can be… how to say… INTENSE.
But whatever. i’m alright with it.
I was at church this morning and the preacher was talking about bitterness and about how to let it go. I love this topic. Because God has done so much work in me, through this process of releasing bitterness, so seriously. It’s my holy jam. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says forgiven, because I care so much about reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s a very big deal for me.
And the preacher was knocking it out of the park like he normally does. Just saying all the right things in all the right ways. But then he paused to get serious with us for a moment. And he turned the topic to marriage.
Right off the bat I bristled. Part of being a woman in an imperfect church I suppose, but marriage is so loaded for me. I bring a shit load of baggage with me every time I enter that church building. Lots of the suitcases are named marriage. So to brace for impact when marriage is preached from the pulpit is a knee-jerk, and one that I am pretty okay with to tell you the truth. Some great, giant, gaping wounds I’ve had to heal from have come at the hands of the church’s preaching on “godly marriage”.
You guys, guess what he said. That the job of reconciliation within marriage falls on the shoulders of the husband.
I nearly yelled, “I object.” But he’s on a big screen, so it wouldn’t have done any good, and it would have been totally and completely weird anyway. I did message my friend that very moment, and she asked me what I was going to do about it. Piss and moan was my response. Aka blog about it.
Why do I object you ask? Lot and lots of reasons. For starters, in my own marriage this is not how it happens. Sometimes my husband reaches his hand across the bed, and sometimes I do. Neither of us are very good at it, but I’d say we split this duty, and it makes sense. Sometimes I feel a heavy weight of misery, and I want to throw things across the house. And he breaks the spell by bringing us back down to earth with a kind word or a gentle reminder. And sometime the opposite happens. We carry one another in this holy responsibility, and we stay humble in this way also.
But there was a time when our marriage was in such turmoil that neither of us was concerned at all for reconciliation at all. We walked around in a haze of anger and resentment, blaming one another for the pain and hurt we felt. And at that point in time when my marriage was going down the shitter, who do you think began the reconciliation process? It was me. (Don’t pat me on the back yet. I had less to do with it than you might think.)
I remember laying in bed, and begging God to change him. I don’t know how many nights in a row I prayed that. Let’s just say it was a good long while.
Then there was the night when God had had enough of my whiny ass, and he finally spoke to my request. He said in a slightly annoyed voice, “Maybe you should stop worrying about him changing and change yourself. You’ve got plenty of issues to work on.”
And I was all, “Oh.. um.. I guess you’re right.”
And that’s how our marriage was saved. I just quit blaming him for my issues, and didn’t even worry about his issues (and there were many). And on my good days I still don’t worry about his issues. We just carry on, and bear the load of our own responsibilities and find grace for when the two overlap and cause harm to the other.
So how damaging for the pastor to get up in front of thousand and thousand of married couple and say, “husbands, the job of reconciliation falls to you.”
What about wives who have husband who will not seek reconciliation no matter how awful things get? And what about wives who attend church on Sundays alone without a believing spouse? They’ve just been handed a reason to be hopeless. If it’s really their husbands job and their husband won’t, then what can they do? Just remain in bitterness unreconciled until their marriage dissolves or until they die? And why did the pastor hand wives a free pass? Because I promise you, God is not handing out that free pass.
If you are a wife, and you are not seeking reconciliation with your husband, even if your husband isn’t seeking it either, you are accountable for that. And the choice to remain in bitterness is a sin. And I know it can feel really good to misplace your sin upon another, but just don’t. Your husband has plenty of sin to sort through, as do you. As we ALL do.
And the only person God’s going to accept you misplacing your sin upon is his son. Jesus. Not your husband, even if your pastor says so.
I don’t want to make light of how difficult marriage can be. Until the advent of teenagers within my home I would vehemently say to any and all who would listen, “Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done.” Now raising teens and being married are neck and neck, but you guys, marriage is so freaking hard. And the act of reconciliation doesn’t just happen overnight for a marriage that’s been unhealthy for a long time, but someone has to start the process. It could be a husband. It could be a wife. But however it happens in your life, I promise, it will be some of the most profound and holy work you’ve ever done. So don’t wait. Start the process now, and God’s Holy Spirit that is living in your very body will aid the process. You won’t be sorry.
As for imperfect churches that preach imperfect messages, that sometimes impart hopelessness, and sometimes encourage a disownership of sin… I don’t even know. She means well, this broken body of Christ. And reconciliation will be complete one day.
Until then I’ll just keep showing up. And keep pissing and moaning. And keep loving wives, and husband, and singles with the love of Christ, until I just can’t anymore.