***This post originally appeared on the Facebook page for this blog on April 11, 2016***
Late last week I had lunch with my editor-friend and my therapist-friend, both of whom I had the great fortune of working with for a little while.
My editor-friend and I have known each other since college, and I’ve always appreciated that we talk so easily about books and music and theology. It’s only in recent years that we’ve dropped into those deeper places of knowing each other and sharing real stories, and I’m only now starting to appreciate the wisdom and insight and peace that also comes with being her friend.
My therapist-friend is new, though. A gem of a guy I met because we worked in the same place and both studied counseling and never ran out of things to say at the lunch table. Turns out, a couple of lunches is all it really takes to make a new friend.
And at lunch late last week, these friends sat across from me as they listened for the millionth time about how I’m doing since I lost my job, about what I’m thinking I’m going to do next, about my increasingly complicated feelings about Church and Church People.
My therapist-friend interjected at one point, “Can I make an observation?” For always this will be a question I answer yes to when my therapist-friend asks it because I’m a dummy who needs the insights of people who are smarter than me and because I know whatever follows will likely be something that God needs me to think about.
“You’re an idealist. But, with idealism can come a lot of darkness or angst when the ideals aren’t being met. What do you do…”
“To stave off the darkness?”
And I found myself saying, “I text my friends. I tell the people I trust most in the world that the darkness is there and I need them to pray. And then maybe I start praying too. I don’t let myself sit alone in it anymore.”
And so the conversations between me and God these days go something like:
Me: Okay, Lord. This church thing is pretty jacked up right now, and it’s not right. I’m a church kid and I want to love the church, but God, the people are making it so dang difficult.
Him: I know. Miranda’s going to ask you to have lunch next week with her and Jeff. Go.
Me: Okay, cool. I like them. I can do that. But, Lord, what about the other people? The ones who make you look bad. What are we going to do about them?
Him: You’re going to be asked to dog sit for a co-worker you really like. Do that too.
Me: Alright, sweet. I can definitely use the cash. But, I feel like you’re not listening to me. What are we going to do about the sucky church people?
Him: You should see if Dennis is free for coffee.
Me: FINE! I’ll text him right now! But, c’mon, dude! Hear me! Things are screwed up, and I keep getting screwed over by people in your dumb church, and I’m starting to get really pissed about it. We need to figure out what to do!
Him: Isn’t that writer’s festival coming up? They’re going to talk about some stuff like diversity and storytelling and friendship and grace, right? Pay attention there.
Me: Dude, I KNOW! Sarah Bessey and Nadia Bolz-Weber are my heroes, so we already know I’m taking a legal pad’s worth of notes. And stop trying to distract me, I’m mad here!
Him: Hey, your phone just buzzed. Those two people in that group text that you’re in are two of your best people, right? That friendship isn’t an accident. Go enjoy them.
Me: Okay. Deal. But, we’re not done. We still need to talk about your church people.
Him: Yeah. Maybe we just did?
It’s almost as if God’s trying to remind me that for every church people that makes Jesus look bad, there’s a Miranda or Jeff showing up to listen and ask the right question. It’s almost as if I’m supposed to remember that God’s a bit of an idealist too, hoping that the people who love him will show up and take care of other people.
And this is what I love about the Christian story – even when God’s ideal isn’t met, even when people are being jackwagons who make Jesus look bad, the darkness still doesn’t win.
Because there are more friends in the Church than there are jackwagons.