"Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came.
You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same.
You want to be where everybody knows your name."
I meet with them at least once a week, usually more than that. A lot of us are broken. Some battle with the effects of alcoholism in their homes. Some face addictions themselves. Some battle depression. Some have thoughts of suicide. Some were victims of abuse. Some are fighting to keep their marriages together, while others have already seen theirs fail. Others know the heartache that comes with caring for a sick loved one. Some are battling infertility. Several were raised in broken homes. All of us are broken in some way. We all have a story.
Occasionally a stranger comes in when we are meeting ...strangers who themselves might be broken. You would think it would be a great place for them to visit. Surely in that group of brokenness they could find someone with which to identify. But they don't. I fear that they come in to our group and they don't see people they can identify with, people with similar backgrounds and burdens. I fear that what they find are picture perfect people with picture perfect families. Nicely dressed families with 2.3 kids, nice cars, and nicely painted on smiles...the American dream...normal. And the visitors leave...once again finding that they don't belong here because they are broken and no one would understand or accept them.
And they go out into the world, looking for someone who is real...someone who would understand....someone who cares. There are places in the world where you can find someone who will sympathize with your pain. Places where they all know your name. Places where you are accepted for who you are or what you have become with no questions asked. Places where you are offered a beverage instead of a blessing. Places that offer shared misery instead of a shared ministry. Places where they will hold your hair while you vomit instead of your hand while you cry.
Why is it that those who are hurting feel more accepted and loved in a bar than in a church? Could it be that the world does a better job at being real than we do as Christians? Why is it that we feel that the Christian life must appear so perfect? Are we trying to impress God or men? Do we think because we are saved that we are to hide the broken places? Do we think that brokenness is a sign of not being enough for God?
A picture perfect life makes a beautiful light, but it may shine too brightly for most people to draw near it. The brightness of the light may be captivating, but it can be so bright and perfect that it repels more than it attracts. There's a softer light that shines through the broken places of a worn earthen vessel. There's a warmth to it that draws people to its light.
People need the gift of Christ wrapped in authenticity. They need to see you be real. They need to hear about your struggles and the role that God has played in them. When you don't try to cover your brokenness, it can be seen and God can take those broken places and help you light your world. When we allow Christ to shine through our imperfections, it creates a warm light that draws the hearts of others who are broken. The warmth of the light doesn't repel, but draws those to it that need it most.
The church is not to be a holy hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. When you go into a hospital for help, no one leaves you to sit there alone. They don't assume you're fine, they assume that you are broken somewhere and set about to help you get well. When you enter a hospital, your first stop is triage. A series of questions are asked so that they understand why it is that you have came. The next step is to get you to those who can start to help you heal. That's what church is supposed to look like. Church isn't there to offer your concierge service. It's there to help identify your broken places and help you heal.
When are we as Christians going to get past the things that make us feel uncomfortable and get some dirt under our fingernails? When are we going to be like Jesus and reach out to the outcast? When are we going to seek out the woman at the well on her turf? When are we going to eat a meal with the outcast? When are we going to be willing to stand with the adulterous woman and simply tell her to sin no more and give her the tools to make it possible, rather than to condemn and shun her? When will we move beyond superficial relationships with those in the pew behind us, and make sure we build quality relationships? When will we be willing to share our story, knowing it's part of His story?
Church needs to become a place where you can see that our troubles are all the same. We need to be the place they come to feel safe and understood. They need to understand that God is in the healing business. He doesn't expect us to be perfect. He only wants us to be willing to follow Him. He sees our broken places, but not the way humans see them. He sees them as windows for His light to show through. So Christians, let your light so shine so those who are hurting can see your light and glorify your Father. Take a risk and share your story. There's someone out there who desperately needs to hear it.