Monday, June 13, 2016

Behavior


-Anne Lamott

A while ago I injured my ankle - again. I went to the ER that night, and for weeks couldn't walk independently.
While it wasn't broken, my doctor told me I did permanent damage and the tear in my ligament will never heal.

I was back on crutches, hobbling around in a walking cast, and feeling pretty miserable.


My roommates were great - one my tidied my room, another picked up groceries and all brought me glasses of water and encouraged me. No one complained about me sleeping in the living room for a week.


I'm thankful for all my amazing friends who came to visit, who brought me food or gave me a ride, doing anything to cheer me up. This post isn't about them - because they were great.


Because, during all this time, there was a silence. 
Not a single person from my church, which I had attended and been an active part of for nearly 3 years, had even asked how I was doing.

When I had to cancel my nursery shifts on account of I couldn't walk, I was only asked to notify when I would be back and able to volunteer, so they could put me back on the schedule.


The silence hurt. 
I had poured into these relationships. I had cried with some of these people, prayed for them and praised with them. I had helped with fundraisers, donated goods for projects and given time to raise money for others' mission trips. I had volunteered in the nursery for over a year.

It's tough, moving to a new city, living in a country where you have no biological family and few supports. I always looked to church to offer that support, that community. I thought that I had this.
I felt used, in a way. Like I had been taken advantage of. Similar to when you imagine that a relationship you're in, that you're dedicating time and attention to, is a two-way street. And then you realize you're only appreciated for your skills, what you can DO for them.
I wasn't angry - I was just hurt.

It's not to say this is a 'bad' church - they do some really great work in the community. Nor is it to say that this was entirely what motivated me to depart - but it was a catalyst.

I found messages I wrote back and forth with a dear friend, and I think they still concisely sum it up:


All week I've been annoyed with Christians.
Is it me?
Yes, I am a Christian and a hypocrite because I do some of the very things I despise in other Christians.

Is it all of us?
Yes, we are all fallible and broken and in need of a Savior.

Is it our modern Christian culture?
Yes. I hate this Christian culture that emphasizes being right, upholding our own rights instead of loving others.

But why is it annoying me so much lately?

I don't care what you say you believe, I watch your actions.

I've been on crutches, or unable to walk several times in my life. The blow to my independence huts the most, having to ask for help, buying groceries becomes a difficult chore, getting up the steep stairs to the bathroom a planned activity.

But in these times I learn a great deal about others. Friends who sit with me for hours in the ER, or offer to help in any way. Sometimes, it's just the messages to ask me how I'm doing or to cheer me up.

What I've noticed, over the several years I've been injuring my legs (about once a year for 4 years) is that people who have been the best friends to me when I've been incapacitated are not Christian, or not overly Christian.
They would never post a Bible verse as their status, attend church regularly or fall into the 'conservative Christian category'. Or maybe they have a different faith all together, or don't adhere to any religion.

The point is, whenever I've needed help, it's been these friends who helped me. Not the 'Christian' ones who I attend church with.

Christians, you need to be better friends. You kinda suck at it.

People do not care about your theology if they can't feel your love. Your right doctrine does not matter, your beliefs do no matter unless they are practically lived out to the humans around you. Stop talking and go do something.



I know I'm not perfect at this, either. I've used busyness as an excuse too much. I've learned it's not about being too busy - it's about making this or that a priority.


After this, I took a good, long, look at relationships in my life and started re-order how I spend my time, and who I spend it with.

One of the things I cut back on? Attending church. Not just that I stopped attending this church, but the pressure to go every week to any steepled structure is gone. It's about relationship with God, and relationship with other people.


I recently attended an evangelical church, the kind with a long, 3-point sermon by a white male pastor pacing the stage.
I sensed a great deal of talking at me, telling me what to do, how to act (and only select scripture verses read, but the Bible not opened or read in length). I haven't missed that, not even a little.
What I want for myself, and what I hope for for all Christians is that we stop talking so much. Instead, that we look for practical ways to bless other people.
Actions speak louder than words.
Abstain from whatever substances, music or activities you want. Fine. It's not about that. It never was.
Read all the books you want, write and increase your knowledge. Good. But knowledge is not the end goal.
But stop talking so much.
And start blessing people in real ways.
Because love is the point, the aim of our lives here on this earth.
How do people feel your love?
How do people feel my love?
Am I doing a lot of talking, or am I spending a lot of time?
Do my actions bless others?
What am I doing, not what am I saying.