A while ago, my Beloved invited (challenged?) me to ask for healing. Although physical healing had been my main focus at them time, it wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t God’s main focus. And in order for physical healing to either occur or last, I need to feel like I and my body are worth healing and looking after. Part of this has been God challenging my self-reliance. Not in spiritual matters, relying on God, but in living as part of a Christian family, part of the Body of Christ.
I’m not good at this. I’m much more practiced at doing it alone. I’d rather be slightly heretical, or at least make a bigger deal about my differences, so that I am justified in my self-imposed isolation.
It’s ‘their’ fault, not mine.
I’d rather rock the boat, changing its direction from outside, than try to work with others from within.
We’ve been at our current church for more than a year and a half now, and we felt so warmly welcomed, despite the serious faith deconstruction work we’d been doing. I now have a whole lot of Christian acquaintances, lots of people to share a smile and chat about unimportant things of the week-past, like the weather, or the latest earthquake, but I don’t really feel like I have any more close friends than I did before. I feel like I’m still at a distance, like there’s an invisible barrier between us. And the thing it, I’m pretty sure I’m the one who put it there.
God doesn’t want us to be acquaintances in our churches, we are family. I’ve gotten too used to answering “how are you?” questions as if they are greetings from acquaintances, not genuinely caring family. And God’s been calling me out on it.
God’s been showing me how I am trying to do this Christian life solo, not as a part of a family, or as part of a larger body. What good is a big toe if it’s not connected to a foot? What use is an eye if it is unconnected to a hand to act on what it sees, unconnected to legs to walk where it sees to go?
I was listening to an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber the other day, and she spoke about churches saying creeds, how individuals might protest that they don’t believe certain lines, but that as a church collectively there will be belief in all the lines because one person will believe where another doesn’t, and someone else will believe where the first doesn’t. It is collectively that we are whole and able to live this Christian life as God calls us to. Nadia also spoke of needing others to love our enemies when we are struggling to, to see that it is done, but the weight does not sit on one individual’s shoulders.
I’ve never heard these things put this way, I’ve only been taught our individualized Western version of Christianity, where it is only about individually having a ‘personal’ relationship with God, the key question is of our individual salvation.
Most of the Christianity I grew up seeing in my parents was a corporate faith. It showed up in the large congregation on Sunday mornings and in community work, but not really home alone. I don’t remember seeing my parents reading the Bible unless my lay-preacher father was preparing a sermon, and the only prayer at home was a curt “thank you for food and family” at the dinner table. My parents’ faith is strong and sure, but focused much more corporately than seems common today.
My problematic brain, my mental illness combined with my tendency to process things internally, causes me to be much more self-focused than is often healthy for me. And I’m finding it hard to break habits that I have developed over the last thirty years to be self-protecting.
But I can’t do this alone. This life OR this faith. They are not individual pursuits. It has gone out of style to speak for the body/the church in prayer or song. We ask people to ‘stand in agreement’ or join us in Amen, but it is rare for someone to stand up and proclaim “we”.
Jesus didn’t die for me, he died for us. Collectively, together. So how shall we now live?