On this Easter, I am still a recovering churchaholic. But, thank God, I’m free.
Free from religion. Free from the vexing of religious traditions, isms and schisms, abuses and dogma. Free to see, beyond the clouded veil of man, the matchless risen savior: Jesus Christ.
Mine has been an unenviable journey on a still unfolding, nonlinear walk of faith as I — an imperfect Pentecostal grandson — continue to work out my soul’s salvation with fear and trembling.
I am a church misfit. I have come to accept that maybe I always was and always will be.
I am a square peg perhaps not meant to fit into the church round hole. And I have found in the church no place for me. “A rebel without a cause,” I have been called by good church folk. “Anti-church.”
And yet, I am open to the possibility of some day returning to the institutional church.
But whether that day ever comes, I stand with my faith intact, having discovered no better place for worship than in His presence — whether in a church or in my living room — in spirit and in truth. I still believe.
And what I have also come to believe — to know — is that there is a place for me. Always was. Always will be: At the cross of Jesus.
That discovery took many years of heartache, soul-searching and heartbreak. The deepest hurts occurred not from outside the walls of the church but within them.
And yet, I am not angry with anyone. Not bitter. Not spiteful or vengeful. For I believe that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I believe that God willed it so. I believe the blood of Jesus is still the cleansing pool that washes away a multitude of sins.
I have also come to believe that He has called some of us to endure certain hardships, to plod by faith sometimes beyond the beaten path — not for our own sake alone but for the good of others. For His glory.
Some who read my words about the church hear only anger, but not my pain. They see in my writings “hate” for the church instead of my deep love for the church ingrained in my bones.
Some have labeled me a whiner with an axe to grind. But I have no axe to grind, only a cross to bear.
That cross, in part, includes sharing my experiences within the institution in which I have known some of my greatest joys but also my deepest pain. An institution that has perfected the public display of piety and pomp and circumstance but too often appears devoid of grace, mercy and compassion.
In my 20s, as a deacon and minister in my grandfather’s church, I imagined I might someday become a pastor.
But that is not my calling, as far as I can see. The last thing we need is another church.
What the African-American community needs most is more truth. More love. More caring. More people willing to be the church than going to church.
No, my calling is not to be a pastor — unless I might be pastor of the pen — to speak to the wind in this generation of the grace and mercy of God.
Unless I might, by the words of my pen, flowing with the meditations and longing of my heart, help us to remember and resurrect the church I once knew.
To tell others who also find themselves this Easter outside the church’s walls that they too can be free. Free indeed.
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