Tonight I received terrible news.
A pastor and his family experienced an overwhelming tragedy this weekend. To honor the family, I won’t go into detail. But I knew the family, somewhat. I babysat for them. I was a part of their church for a few years in middle school and high school. Their kids were in my youth group.
I am completely heart-broken and overcome with grief.
It’s not often that I think back to my church youth group experience. But tonight I did. And more sorrow filled my already heavy soul. I’m not bitter in any way, but the reality of my youth group was cliques, popularity, and judgment. We all did it. If you were slightly weird or awkward or different, you weren’t accepted. Unless of course you could make people laugh (with you or at you).
I’m tired of apologizing for and justifying that lifestyle. I’m tired of looking away and ignoring the hypocrisy of the Christian church, the hypocrisy that we raise our children and our youth in, and then wonder why this generation is so ‘unchurched’. Thank GOD they’re unchurched (to the common standard of ‘church’ these days), because they are more honest and real with themselves than ever before, walking in more integrity than most of the Christians.
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that this was a place teaching about JESUS: a man of sorrows, a friend of sinners, rejected and despised. A building full of mouths proclaiming the name of JESUS: the very definition of love and the creator of life; and yet more death was spoken than life, more division than unity, more bigotry than reconciliation, forgiveness and love.
By this, I’ve been offended. Offended by injustice and religion.
My soul cries out for justice. My heart longs for the REAL JESUS.
I learned more about loyalty and respect from my lesbian co-worker in high school. I learned more about acceptance from the hippies in college. I learned more about love and forgiveness from the orphans in Cambodia, who were devastated by hate and war. I learned more about redemption from the young girls in Thailand who are forced into prostitution by their family. I learned more about a father’s passionate heart from the street kids in Honduras who are addicted and unwanted. I learned more about Jesus, a man with no home, from the homeless in Little 5 Points, Atlanta.
Faces and names ran through my mind tonight. Faces of people who came to a church youth group to find love. Names of people who desperately needed approval and affection. Sons and daughters of God, searching for identity and purpose. Today I don’t know where most of them are. I don’t know if I was nice to them, or if I treated them with disgust or contempt. This shouldn’t be.
God, forgive me of my pride, my judgment, my arrogance, and my self-absorption. May the church rise up to be the loving bride who helps the poor and sympathizes with the broken. May all the fear be driven out by pure love. May we know and be confident in who we are as beloved children of a good father. Amen.