“We have been so busy creating castles for ourselves that we haven’t stopped to notice they aren’t really very beautiful.”
~Lisa Whittle, I Want God
I’m about to get on my Christian Twitter and type 140 Christian words about a Christian issue Christians talk about, when I get her message.
“Please pray for my husband – we have 4 kids and he’s suffering from an addiction to pain meds, is struggling to work and is our primary income.”
Suddenly I don’t want to get on my Christian twitter anymore.
And Amie, my lovely ride from the airport a few weeks ago, tells me something on our drive to an out-of-town event that is gnawing at me, too.
“Christian writers and speakers sometimes don’t fully realize how much they vocalize their privilege. Like, writing so casually about their beach house to readers like me who lived in a trailer my whole life and wouldn’t know the first thing about a beach house. Or, telling me about how God spoke to them on a cliff in Fiji while they were on their vacation when I’m a single mom just trying to make ends meet. Yeah, I read a lot. I love Christian books, but that doesn’t translate to real life, much.”
I hoped she wouldn’t see my quick mental scramble through 6 books to assess if this were also true of me.
The next morning, I stand and give my opening speaking illustration that prior to my conversation with Amie I have thought nothing about: our family on the lake in our boat.
We are far from rich. That 20-year old boat was given to us, for goodness sakes, and it spends more time in the shop than on the water, if the truth be known. I could rattle off all our volunteer work we do as a family and the books I give away that still cost me money…but at the end of the day, I must own the depth of my unknowing cute Christian privilege.
God wrapped up in a bow.
God wearing a suit.
God in 140 characters.
God on a lake.
Look, I know the drill by now and how some will love what I’m saying and some will blast me for being critical and want to throw me into Christian PR. Let me just put this out there the best I know how: I’m 39 in Jesus following years and 45 in real age ones, which can be translated as “past the age of being able to tuck back in my Christian niceties and plastic Christian answers.”
I’ve seen a lot in those 39 Jesus following years, which has aged me even further: 25 of them as my dad a pastor in churches all over the US, a handful of church fights (pastors kids don’t forget these things), one public court case which led him to lose his mega church, plastered all over the 6:00pm news, seminary, launching and closing a church in 13 months (my husband and myself), non-profit ministry that went amazing, non-profit ministry that ended hard, and many things in between. I’ve loved deacons and pastors and their wives, even ones that hurt my family deeply…been a part of hundreds of potlucks, run down the halls of many a stained glass church, brought all of my babies to church nurseries and worked in them and held other people’s babies while they drooled on my new silk shirt, too.
I know this life. I know Church. I know Christians. I know me.
And I can’t tuck the stuff about us back in, anymore. I just can’t. Really, I never have been able to and now with 39 years of it behind me, it’s just flat impossible.
So here’s where I land.
I don’t want to live in a Christian castle, based on blueprints of my own self-fascination, built by hands that serve myself, and the inability to be empathetic to my neighbor’s view from their window next door.
I don’t want to put up walls that serve me, that keep people out because I see them as necessary but really, the rooms don’t need them.
I don’t want to sit in my well constructed castle, writing well constructed books that don’t help change anyone because I don’t get out of the castle to know what people actually do need. (Sorry, online polls. You just aren’t the same.)
I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to do anything if it doesn’t have a point.
I don’t want to dance around issues to help other people feel better about their prejudice and entitlement. I don’t want to pretend I don’t have some gross entitlement issues of my own. I don’t want to be afraid I will lose my spiritual expert card if I tell you I do not have a perfect marriage and constantly battle with my weight and am so introverted I often do not want to leave my house. Truth is, I never wanted that card, anyway.
I am over pious Christians causing fights. I am saddened to no longer be surprised when spiritual leaders make up their own doctrines, mostly built on popularity and what sells, with a little Jesus thrown in.
I am tired of 170 characters of nothing. I am weary of books that take up space. I am sick to death of my own smart breath knowing so much I don’t know enough to shut the mouth it came out of and listen to God who knows every last thing.
I think we’ve all said enough. I know, I have.
What are we doing, now? Now, that we’ve voiced how much we hated that election. Now, that we have talked about how crappy our life has turned out. Now, that we have used every last word in our vocabulary to say we are scared to death about this crazy world… what now?
Are our Christian castles honestly that beautiful? We’ve built them, methodically, sometimes years and years over time. But have they brought us any closer to Jesus? Have they let us minister to a hurt and dying world or successfully insulated us from it?
It’s not beautiful…
It’s not beautiful to be a Christian country club, members of our kind only.
It’s not beautiful to be racist.
It’s not beautiful to stay stuck in our messes and never let God use us, because we’ve decided perfection is the litmus test.
It’s not beautiful to love grace and preach love but deny truth and righteousness.
It’s not beautiful to work for God and not dwell with Him, intimately.
It’s not beautiful to be so pleased with ourselves we can no longer see the Cross.
It’s not beautiful to live God-ish lives. (II Tim. 3:5)
These are the hard considerations, some overdue, and well worth asking God to search our heart over, deconstruct our Christian castles…
…so we will finally come out of them into this world, extend our hands to the hurting, and escort them to Jesus. This is when we will all finally be ok. Them, because they have found Life. Us, because we have found life purpose. Him, at the center of it all.
May this post be a small beckoning us to it.
…An epilogue encouragement to my writer friends: I love our sensitive, word-offering misfit band. I know we want so deeply to get it right, and as sensitive types truly desiring to make this world better, it’s never our intent to isolate our readers. I pray with all sincerity that this post will not be discouraging, but will serve only as a tool of greater awareness to reach for every heart with our pen, wear the shoes of every reader through prayer, empathy, and imagination, and touch the hurts around us so we can write about them from first-person skin. I’ve been convicted in my own Christian castle. It is from that place this post derives. Keep writing. I love you.