I met Sarah Murray through the Story 101 writing course, and I was blown away by the brilliance and depth of her poetry. She blogs about vulnerability and the paralysis of perfectionism, and her words are always full of power and raw beauty. It is a pleasure to have her here today:
I am your model church attendee, or should I say, was.
I was the one that arrived early to set up, and stayed late to help clean up. I had my name on every sign-up sheet, went to worship practice Wednesday nights, hosted Bible study in my home, and I never took a sick day.
That’s what it means to be the church, right? To “give yourself for the cause of Christ?”, to die to your self, and share what you have with those who ask of you?
I wonder how we came to understand “build my church” as cement and plaster. I wonder how many of us are giving our lives to programs instead of people.
Instead we hold each other at arm’s length, all of us wishing to be seen, none of us sure it’s okay to get our hands dirty. Love is messy, and we as the expression of love should have the dirtiest hands of anyone. We hold cleanliness in too high esteem.
We don’t see the thousands of years of the people who had Him wrong. We’ve been told the stories of wrestling angels, whirlwinds and burning bushes, of the dirty shepherds, the demonized, the dead and drowning are a people altogether separate from ourselves.
But they aren’t.
I am the widow. I am the orphan, the fatherless. I am the beggar trying to live on the crusts from pulpits. I have asked for a seat at the table and I’ve been turned away again and again.
This is the suffering of the outcast. This is the heartbreak of the un-gathered, the unseen, the unloved.
The truth is, I’m done. I am spent. I am exhausted from the attempts to make myself accessible. I am tired of the constant do more, give more, be more that takes precedence over my real life and my real bills and my real doubt. I am tired of being overlooked. I am tired of being neglected. I am tired of the empty “How are you?”, and politeness that ends at the elbow.
I am tired of the white-washed expression of faith. The one that is an empty canvas of “of course I know.” I am tired of the Temple of the Lord being more like a parade of homes than one where I can remove my shoes, share my bread, and rest.
I am tired of a baby Jesus who is too innocent and coddled to be able to hold my mess. I am weary of the god of known. The god of expected, the god of “Of course He is; of course I’m right.”
I am tired of hoping again and again and again that this house of many rooms will have a place for me, that the hands inside will be warm and welcoming, that the feet will be bringing good news to me saying, “Yes, This is your home! Yes, you are welcome here! We will not leave you. We will not forsake you.”
This is the sorrowing of the exiled.
I left the church with its high walls and holy curtains. And the steps away are hard. I do not want to leave the home I have known. I do not want to be in the wilderness. I do not want to be alone with the grasshoppers.
And although the first steps bloody my feet, I am finding that off in the distance there is a shadow of another person, and soon another. We have tears on our faces and questions on our shoulders. We have aches in unseen places, and the vastness of the unknown is staggering. But we continue to the wilderness.
And perhaps this is not an exiling, but a pilgrimage. Perhaps we will find the hidden cisterns and hear God at the mouth of our caves. Perhaps we will find Him in the bushes. And learn the wild of a God who is boundless, and unafraid to touch the dirt on our feet.
Sarah Murray is a coffee drinking, glitter collecting, poet at heart. When she’s not writing she and her husband Micah can be found riding motorcycles or chasing their two energetic boys. She considers herself a recovering perfectionist and is learning to love from the inside out. She is on Twitter and she blogs at A Lovely Frame.
Over to you:
- When have you experienced ‘the suffering of the unseen, the outcast’?
- Whom have you met when you wandered in the wilderness?