We know a lot about stirring each other up but rarely is it understood as a positive. We stir the pot, we push the buttons, we get under skin and the outcome is frustration and annoyance. But let’s consider the stir from another angle which would be for the purpose of motivating love and good works. What a foreign concept.
Consider for a moment that the idea behind why we “do” church might be flawed. What if it’s not a “doing” so much as it is a “being”? When that’s been broken down in your mind, try to understand being as it relates to wounding. If the church is not something that we do but rather something that we are, wounding becomes much more personal. We become individually accountable for the perceptions of the whole. Add to that accountability stirring one another up to love and good works and it becomes much less something the pastor is singularly tasked with and more of a collaborative full body effort.
Here we are, all together, being the church with this misguided concept that church was made for smiles and euphoria, singing and emotions and lots and lots of positivity. The reality is…that’s not the reality! If each one of us individually makes up a piece of the whole, then examine who you are personally and magnify that times all the people in your church. That’s a pretty good picture of the level of broken that we’re dealing with. Euphoria goes out the window and messy comradery becomes the reality.
I hear the cries of the “church wounded” on a regular basis. Some exist on the back row in sulky fashion, others enjoy making a dramatic exit while some simply and quietly slip through the cracks or out the back door. With them a piece of our body is amputated. This happens because they were wounded in a place where they expected perfection. Perfection cannot be crafted out of brokenness but sharp pieces can rub together to make other sharp and useful pieces and that’s really the picture of the church. It’s a pool of broken people who’ve found their salvation inside of one perfect individual who is calling them to walk together toward sanctification which is a big word that essentially means, “ain’t none of us there yet!”
We all share a common thread in this scenario. We have all been wounded and we have all inflicted wounds on someone else in our church family. A W Tozer said, “All great Christians have been wounded souls.”
A young woman told me how badly the church had hurt her. She explained this at a coffee house because she didn’t want to meet me inside of a church. She spoke of how her heart had been broken and how deeply she desired for things to be different but because of the gashes she was wearing her choice was to walk away from the church all together. She just didn’t see how things could ever change. She was shocked to find that I did not agree with her reasoning. She was even more shocked when I told her that rather than being a helpless casualty, her call in Christ actually meant these gashes made her that much more accountable to the church to step out and be the change she so desperately desired to see in the institution she was abandoning.
All of us who have been wounded have great inside information about what not to do to others and how not to cause the same pain we’ve felt. It is with this knowledge that we are able to stir one another toward both love and good works, neither of which can be done if we “neglect to meet together.”
One of the most hurtful things that has ever been said to me came out of a frustrated conversation where an individual was sharing with me all the things that had hurt them inside a short window of time. Some of those things were unintentionally my fault. I began to share my heart and explain why I had not meant to be hurtful. I shared that I too understand what it’s like to be hurt by the church. With a lot of anger, the words spit back in my direction cut me like a knife. “What could you possibly have to be hurt by?” Dozens of examples rushed to my mind but all of those were drowned out by the words that muted who I am.
My confession is this, there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t get hurt by the church in some capacity or another. There isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t have to swallow what I’d like to say and replace it with a quiet smile because Jesus wouldn’t say what I want to say. Then there are weeks when I can’t smile. Sometimes I’m not quiet. All the time I am 100% human; hanging out under the title of “Pastor’s Wife” which is not a title that equals perfection.
None of us are perfect and none of us has arrived. All of us are wounded and all of us have the same mandate, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…” Hebrews 10:24-25. We don’t get to walk away. We don’t always have to shut up and we can’t always put up. Sometimes we have to call out and speak up. Sometimes we have to let it slide because that’s God working on us and our siblings simultaneously. Sometimes it’s a crucial calling to accountability and sometimes it’s silence. Sometimes it’s being humble enough to say you’re sorry for doing the wounding and sometimes it’s being gracious enough to accept those words with a bouquet of forgiveness in return. Sometimes the wounding words are truth and we need to swallow them and grow. Always though, we are to be stirring one another toward love and good deeds. The broken build up the broken. The perfect do not exist and the church isn’t something that we do: it’s who we are. Together we paint to the world a picture of how the broken have a redeemer in Christ.