Because God is never known to do things in my life in small measures but full swooping motions like King Kong in New York or my little brother demolishing a lego kingdom, it should come as no surprise that the past few weeks have knocked down one domino after another. I told a friend on Wednesday I just needed a few minutes to mourn something, but I walked out of that room to yet another message that would rend my mourning garments more.
Does it ever stop?
Some friends got married in a wedding chapel recently, its walls glass, seemingly made up of the forest around us, its arched wooden beams curved over our heads. One of my pastors told a group of us the reason churches are built like this, arched over with wooden beams, is because the church building is meant to conjure up the idea of the ark, the ark in which Noah and his family and two of every kind of animal found shelter. A haven. A sanctuary.
A friend from church is in the ICU and has been for a week and a half. Last night as my pastor closed his sermon and prayed over us, a text from my mother came announcing my younger brother was in the ER. My roommate stayed home from church today and is going to visit her grandfather who is in the hospital with heart failure.
Sometimes the church, and our faith, doesn’t feel like a haven, a sanctuary. Sometimes it feels most like the place we feel hurt from all sides.
This morning I am thinking about Noah and his family and his brood of smelly animals. And I am thinking of 364 days. Almost a full year spent inside the ark, the haven, the sanctuary.
Here is what I know from years spent in a horse-barn: sometimes I could hide away in the hayloft, burrow down in the sweet dried grass with a book and a blanket, stay there for hours. But sometimes the barn was filled with stalls needing to be cleaned and horses needing to be brushed and flies in every corner. Sometimes there was work to be done and it was smelly, backbreaking, hot, sweaty work.
Even a haven can be hard.
So this week, as tears are so near to the surface, spilling out in inopportune moments, in class, at work, writing this, I am having to say to God: You knew it would be like this and You prepared us ahead of time, gave us the materials to build a haven, a sanctuary, and You keep us through it.
You keep us through the persecution, through the rains, through the days of waters receding but no dry land in sight; You keep us through family kept safe inside that haven; and You keep us through two of every kind, male and female. Because of this we know there is more and this sanctuary—this safe place—is good enough for now, but God, help me remember it is not home and it should not feel as though it is.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
I love the Church more than pretty much anything on earth and so I’m pretty excited that I’ve been asked to join a group of storytellers who love the Church too. We’re a group of people from all walks, several denominations, vastly different views on theology, but one central love: the Bride of Christ. I’ll be writing for them once a month and I hope you’ll check out the other great writers on the brand new Deeper Church.