This is the ugliest scar. The one covered self-consciously, forearm drawn close over the vulnerable spot: I felt cast-off and forgotten. And when I dusted myself off, I looked around to see that there was no one in particular to whom my presence there mattered. They passed me by, busy or distracted by lives and rituals foreign to me.
Somehow, I was never able to completely shake my identity as someone’s inconvenience at best or no one’s priority at least.
Then came marriage and home life. Finally somebody had chosen me as their person. Their most important person. But entering it, there was an eerie stillness. A sterility. By whose fault it existed, I am still not able to determine, mine or hers or his or God’s.
I’m still trying to find my way home. I wonder sometimes, will I even recognize it when I get there? Is the image I have held in my mind an accurate approximation of what it could look like or have the years and my hopes morphed it into an unattainable abstraction: a flimsy fantasy?
When I was young, I used to like to hang-out at my friends’ homes who had unbroken families. A home where grown-ups came back. A home where there wasn’t a sense that someone had left the cabin door open in an airplane so you either held on for dear life or resigned yourself to a parachute and a lonely leap. I sat at the kitchen tables with my friends’ parents and soaked up the sense of maternal pride. The goofy dad jokes. The older sibling protectiveness. Maybe the families weren’t so perfect, but they seemed like it. And I just prayed they wouldn’t get a whiff of my brokenness and cast me as the undesirable companion for their child.
I wonder how many others like me there may be? I have this feeling there are a lot of us. The helicopter parents who perpetually hover because they never want their children to feel lost in space like they did. The Millennials who are more comfortable in online relationships than real ones because physically inhabiting the same space as those with whom they should have the most intimacy is a skill they never quite acquired when moms and dads and homes were on constant rotation. How many of us wouldn’t know how to feel “at home” any better than a lifelong resident of Hawaii would know how to navigate a road in blizzard conditions? What is horrifying is that this kind of behavior is not just exhibited by those who experienced this brokenness directly, it has become endemic in the culture at large. Normalized.
When I started this post, I was thinking of promises like this and this and this. But as I looked them up, I came upon this passage in Ezekiel 34 addressed to the shepherds or leaders of the church. It’s scripture that seems to speak a little too clearly to the state of the church today, particularly in the United States. Though my primary wound has been in family life, I began to think about others who think they could never feel at home but for them it would be in a church.
It is well-known that Millenials aren’t much interested in the church and just recently I read an article that suggested Baby Boomers are actually even more disinterested. Who else can the church count among the “weak [we]* have not strengthened, the sick [we] have not healed, the injured [we] have not bound up, the strayed [we] have not brought back, the lost [we] have not sought, and [those who] with force and harshness [we] have ruled them?” The last phrase immediately brings to mind brothers and sisters who have identified as gay, divorced, scientists and artists and intellectuals and doubters and misfits of all varieties. How scandalously have we neglected our work as ministers of reconciliation?
But then again, how many of us are sitting in the pews on Sunday who also fit into the lost/loser categories but who are trying our best to look passable? If we were to bring to light the reality of our weakness, our sickness, our bruised-ness and brokenness and our habit of wandering, how would those other pew-sitters react? Would we too get thrown out?
Isn’t the truth that the body of Christ is actually made out of foolish, weak, lowly, despised Nothings? He didn’t come to call the healthy and righteous, he came to call the sick and the sinners. Maybe if we would just admit like Paul that we are the worst of sinners then we could actually get about his work. Because according to this, the fate of those who think they are sleek and strong is not such a good one.
Like I wrote earlier, sometimes I worry that maybe I wouldn’t know “home” even if I somehow stumbled onto it. And what if I didn’t even feel very comfortable there? What if I am a stray who is hopelessly un-housebroken? Again, I find myself in desperate adoration of the One who knows that I can’t find my own way home so instead He promises to come after me.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16
Of which places do you wonder if you’ll ever feel you belong even though you think you probably should?
* I am using the royal we to indicate responsibility as part of the church though I am not in leadership.