Church Orphan: On Desert Walking And Jesus

This year, Easter kind of sucked.

 

Or did it? Did I even notice? Honestly, I’m not sure. This is what happens when you’re a church orphan.

 

I am in that horrible place where I can’t seem to go to my church for a plethora of reasons and no reason at all; and yet I can’t go anywhere else, lest I feel like some strange kind of spiritual adulteress.  This is incredibly difficult — not going to church on Easter felt empty and hollow, as if a Harry Potter Dementor had come in and sucked all the joy out of the room. And yet it is also frighteningly easy, a slick slide into a lazy Sunday morning instead of the crazed get-ready frenzy. I am scared I will lose my addiction to communal worship.

 

Although, maybe that’s what God has in mind.

 

I am not going to church, but that does not mean I am not going to God. I go to God daily. More than daily. I cry out to God when I first open my eyes in the morning — my first thought is always an intentional praise. I write to God in my journal during my quiet time. Throughout the day, I whisper the three sacred prayers a’ la Anne Lamott: Please? Help! Thanks! I still have my New Bible Commentary and my Systematic Theology books on my desk, in easy reach. And my Bible is still scribbled in and book marked, an ongoing conversation among friends.

 

I am, as my new BFF* Sarah Bessey might say, “Out of Sorts.”

 

I thought I was done with my spiritual desert wandering, but here I am again. The difference this time is I am not convinced it’s altogether a bad thing. The desert, after all, is where angels minister. It’s where temptations are dealt with. God draws near in the sand and sun of desolation, and our hunger becomes more focused, more centered on the one true thing: Jesus.

 

In the desert, there are no walls that keep us from seeing the horizon of our destiny — it is that wide open space of both wandering and freedom. It’s a dichotomy of great faith and intense loneliness, the presence of God and the absence of friendship, of wilderness pain and deep wells of thirst-quenching divine intervention. Because after all, when we wander in the desert it can only be the divine that leads us to the water.

 

The scripture that keeps me grounded, that keeps me in the arms of the Almighty is John chapter 9. It’s a truly funny story about ridiculous human nature, the purest of worship, and the Crazy Jesus Love that chases us down, out of the holy places like churches and into the dirty streets. My favorite line is, “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him.” (v. 35, MSG).

 

That’s the thing about Jesus. That’s the beautiful, crazy thing about this holiest of humans. He sees the worth of us even if we’re outside the temple walls. In fact, he’ll leave those temple walls in a heartbeat to go out and search for us, to go out and find us.

 

Maybe even as far as the desert.

 

So even though I feel a great sense of dis-ease with the institution of Christianity at the moment —

–even though I harbor anger for which Jesus probably needs to work me over good —

— even though I am hurt by the social media memes that said I’m going to hell because I didn’t vote for Trump —

— even though the Evangelical machine elected a known misogynistic sexual abuser and refuses to put women into leadership and idolizes “traditional marriage” to the detriment of anyone who falls outside of that construct —

— and all of this feel deeply personal to me —

— even though.

 

Jesus loves me still.

 

And me, I am trying to stop counting the wrongs, I am trying to get back to grace. Grace enough to sit my butt in a seat. Grace enough to feel comfortable there (will I ever feel comfortable there?). Grace enough.

 

Meanwhile, I’ll let Jesus keep mixing mud, slapping it onto my eyes. I’ll rest my head on his shoulder. We’ll sit in the sand, and watch the sunset together.

 

And I’ll remember then that I have all that I need.


*Not really. I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Sarah at the Rise Up, Sister conference this past February and it was amazing. She was amazing. She was kind, approachable, friendly. I was a total dweeb, because she’s one of my favorite writers EVER and I want to be her when I grow up, even though she is probably eons younger than me, and I was totally in awe and probably just mumbled awkwardly when I thought I was actually speaking coherently. But rather than writing all of that, I just say we’re BFFs.