Jen Hatmaker and Jesus

Jen Hatmaker and Jesus June 1, 2021

A long Jen Hatmaker FB post is making its way around the internet and so I toddled over to see how she is doing. Apart from advertising a wine delivery option, and those FabFitFun Boxes (my gosh, I so need to do an unboxing of the Bible video, if only I can figure out a working camera situation), she doesn’t seem to be doing great. There’s this post about anxiety for example. Anyway, there’s a reason her post from yesterday is getting so much attention. Here’s what she says:

But I started that church with a partner, so now I feel a strange disorientation, a founder whose life veered shockingly off course, alone with the ghosts of the sanctuary. And as it has become clear the last five years, most of what I was taught as gospel standards turned out to be entirely optional, able to be abandoned for power, or greed, or lies. To put it succinctly: church confuses me. I am adrift inside it for the first real time in my life. I remain stubbornly attached to Jesus, devil be damned. Something inside that connection stays tender and gentle and true. He is the center that holds for me. But even that relationship is different. My therapist Carissa told me Friday: “You are now able to be known by Jesus in entirely new ways. You have never experienced his love for you in these broken places, because they have never been broken before.” So that is new. That is a new side of Jesus I am figuring out, the one who loves me in shattered places, the one who understands the sanctuary ghosts and lets me watch CBS Sunday Morning instead of church without shame. Church to me right now feels like my best friends, my porch bed, my children and parents and siblings. It feels like meditation and all these leaves on my 12 pecan trees. It feels like Ben Rector on repeat. It feels like my kitchen, and my table, and my porch. It feels like Jesus who never asked me to meet him anywhere but in my heart. I guess I am holding space this morning for anyone for whom church feels complicated; struggling with your own ghosts. Jesus is near and good and dear wherever you are, however you are. Outside the sanctuary but also inside it too, because he will be found by those who are looking. Wherever you meet Jesus, and his people, and his love for the world, and his ways, and his healing work, it is good.
The first thing to note, of course, is that the divorce of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker is utterly tragic. Jen is having a hard time, as indeed she would. So would anyone after the dissolution of something so all-encompassing, something that touches the whole of one’s life, moment by moment, day by day, hour by hour. Once two people have been joined together–and God says he joins them all, if they would be so joined–to wrench them apart is going to hurt.
The second thing is that then, yes, of course, church–when that was the place the two people oriented their lives, in whatever way that looked–is going to be painful. I have been in several church situations where two married people divorced. The whole congregation felt the reverberations. It was terrible. The whole Body being one, when two people who are likewise meant to be one, to be a sort of microcosm of the unity of the whole, when they split apart, well, it is like glass shattering all over the floor and everyone being cut by the shards. That’s why the reasons for doing it should be very carefully considered, and not a whim, a chance feeling, a “you don’t fulfill me,” a reading of Untamed and thinking it will be awesome to be a cheetah.*
Third, the problem, of course, is that Jesus doesn’t divorce himself from the church. That’s why divorce is so awful, because it lies about Jesus and the church. Two people–any two people–who get married (and for real, everyone has said this, so many people have noticed this…St. Paul…everyone) are not just doing their own thing, even if they think they are. They are either telling the truth or a lie about Jesus and his love for the church. So it is not really possible to say that one is “stubbornly attached to Jesus” by rejecting the church. The two–Jesus and the church–are not the same, they should not be confused with each other, but they are so joined that you cannot break them apart. So many people do confuse the Church and Jesus, though. And think that when they are seeing the Church, they are actually seeing Jesus, rather than the one for whom he died (because she was so wretched that she could only be rescued by his own death), the one he loves.
Fourth, of course Jesus loves the broken-hearted. He loves the downcast, the ruined, the disappointed, the angry, the hopeless. He loves them all when they come to him in meek repentant trust, casting themselves on his mercy. Being broken apart for one reason or another is usually a great mercy because that’s when you notice that you need his help, you need his love, you need him because everyone else has failed you. But again, it will be him that you need, and not your own version of him who loves to drink wine with the girls and skip church because it’s all just too difficult. Church can’t ever “feel like Ben Rector on repeat” or “my kitchen, and my table, and my porch,” because church isn’t any of those things. The church is the Body of believers who come repentantly to Jesus and are saved by him, given the Holy Spirit, and worship him together in Truth. Just like Jesus isn’t some sort of imaginative-affirming-spirit-emanation who adores you, neither is the Church a vision board of all the things that make you less anxious and helps you through the hard times while you swing on the porch and drink your coffee.
Fifth, here is a great little book about what the church actually is. And another one about why you should go.
And finally, the first and only way to come into the church is to admit that it–but rather you–are not “good.” That’s the whole point. God is good. Jesus is good. But we, the church, are not “good.” Not in the sense that the world understands that word. We are only good in so far as we admit that we are not good, and cling to the goodness of Jesus, who gives us his goodness, slowly and surely. The vast difference between the goodness of God, and the ruin of humanity is displayed by how fully he gives himself to the church, how he spares nothing to make the church beautiful and perfect. But it is such a painful and difficult time, because each member of the church is being joined to Christ, is being remade so as to endure his glory.
Pray for Jen! And for all who are suffering loss today. Pray that God will use her ruin to draw her back to himself.
*I don’t think that happened with Jen. Neither of them has said. But there is good reason to think it happened with Rachel Hollis.
Photo by Drew Murphy on Unsplash
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