Many of you, my bloggy friends, know that I am a Christian. You probably also know that I am in seminary. Alright, so I've taken one class so far. Shut up! I'll start another one in August. You probably also realize by now that, unless something strikes me as though it would interest y'all, as well as myself, I'm not going to bring it up here. This isn't a "Christian" blog per se. It's just a blog about me and what fascinates me in life. Ceramic cows fascinate me. Shut up.
But this morning I was reading something and can't help but share it. It's not actually the chapter verse stuff, but some guy's introduction to a book, and it took me by surprise. Here, see what you think:
"When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business - and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It's similar with sinners outside the church.
"So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with."
We all have our levels of sick, right? I know where my weaknesses are, difficult as they sometimes are to admit. I know where I'd just plain call a spade a spade and say "This is sin. Plain and simple." For me. For instance, I struggle with being lazy. Whew! There, I said it. But underlying that, I know, is the need to be right. Yes, the two tie together. You'll have to trust me on that. There's just no humility involved in having to be right, whether I am or not. It sucks.
But what all of this brought to mind is my new job. Y'all know that I work with a group of women who have eating disorders. They're obviously ill. The more I learn about eating disorders, the more I see that there are many, many people walking around outside the walls of our hospital who have eating disorders. They are either undiagnosed, disguised, or they refuse to admit they have a problem. Their disorder works for them, thankyouverymuch.
The people inside the hospital? It's a very difficult thing for them, battling the ED. They are faced with knowing that the disorder is not who they are, but that it grips them, trying to kill them (eating disorders kill more people - women - than any other mental disorder - highly fatal). They work very hard to understand who they really are, learn what the ED thoughts look like so they can combat them. They form new habits as a group. They fail a lot. To the staff it sometimes looks as though they WANT to fail. They confront each other when they fail - especially if the one failing is trying to hide it. They support each other. They leave treatment, sometimes to make it in the real world, often to relapse and come back. Some are there for years, needing the support they don't get from their family and friends, sadly.
These women are dependent on each other, on the staff, while learning to be strong. I don't think, though, that they make it outside those walls without the support of people who understand their disorder, who love and support them. It's very much what I hear it's like to be an alcoholic in recovery.
I think one of the things which people misunderstand about "The Church" is that it's full of very broken people who can't get their crap together. People who need support, understanding, love, the strength of others, or they'll die. In so many ways, we die without these things. And I think that a large number of people IN the church either forget this or don't understand it. Won't look at their own crap. Much the way I see some of the girls in treatment looking down their noses at another girl when she screws up and practices her ED. The haughty ones act like the ED IS the girl. And like they have it all together. It's heartbreaking.
Then I remember ... wait ... I do the same thing. With people just like me. And I think I know everything and am always right. I conveniently forget that I screw up. That sometimes I intentionally hurt people. Well ... yeah, I've intentionally hurt people (I can think of one person right now that I'm playing mental games with and she has no idea, and I'm reveling in it). Or have been selfish and refused to see that I'm hurting people I love. I'm grateful that I have friends and family who understand, who have been there and experienced the forgiveness of others and God, who will gently remind me that the universe doesn't revolve around me. That this ugliness isn't who I am, but the sickness which is slowly killing me.
So the introduction is to the book of James, a very short book near the end of the Bible. The version I'm reading is The Message. I understand it much better than anything I've read so far. Here's an example of what I mean, from the first chapter: Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God, the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
See, that I understand. It makes sense to me. So I'll be reading the book of James every day for the next week or two. It amazes me. If you'd like to read it as well, here's the link to it in this version.
Thanks for hanging in there with me today. Until I write again ...