Lent and Easter are both over, and we’re at the beginning of a normal week. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the past forty days. It might not be what the church expected me to learn, but I know I have heard words from Jesus.
It’s because I have a burden. A burden for the person who comes to church alone for whatever reason. In our churches, we have a default setting. A setting where every adult is part of a married couple. And if people are different from that setting, there is pressure to conform. It’s not done purposefully, I know. But it’s done often enough that people who are alone can often feel like they’re the third wheel. It can happen with the college student who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it can happen with the person who is widowed or divorced. It can happen with the person whose spouse doesn’t come to church or with the person whose spouse serves somewhere else. I think the last one is the hardest. You know your spouse is doing what Jesus has called them to do, but it is hard to see everyone sitting in couples. I won’t deny it.
People are generally oblivious as well. They ask if you’re going to celebrate a holiday with family not thinking there might not be any family to celebrate with. In fact, there is only one person I’ve ever known who has the gift of including a single person in their family gathering without making them feel weird. My college mom. From the first time I met her and her family, I knew I was always welcome. I remember fondly all the Sundays and holidays I spent at their homes when I was in college and across the country from my own family. They truly showed Jesus’ love to me.
But I digress. I was talking about Lent and Easter. Over the past forty days, I’ve spent a lot of time alone with Jesus–in prayer as I’ve worked through my Lent book. He’s brought me to the end of myself as I’ve asked questions that have been on my mind and heart. Especially this question. Why is the “church as a community” always talked about when all anyone ever wants to do is spend time with their own families, their own tribes. It’s frustrating to see things like “community” be given lip service when there are so many people in this world who are alone and hurting, people who are different from us, people we might not typically see.
Jesus reminded me that He saw them, and He still sees them today. He told me He sees all who are alone, even me when I don’t fit into church culture. It’s funny to talk like that when we’re told all the time not to try to fit into the world, but we also ask people to fit into a mold at church instead of loving and appreciating their differences. We’re all imperfect so loving other people is going to be done imperfectly until we go to be with Him. I know I’m imperfect, and I bet you all know you’re imperfect too. It’s overwhelming to think of all the mistakes I make as I try to be Jesus’ disciple in this world and make a difference, but not ever feeling accepted anywhere because I am so different.
But, maybe that’s the point. Maybe I’m not supposed to be accepted anywhere, not even at church. Maybe I’m supposed to love without any expectation of being loved back except, of course, by Jesus. And then, my eyes were opened, to all of the times Jesus was there for me yesterday even when I felt like I had failed. He was there when two children asked for me to play with them. He was there as I counseled my own son who had been feeling like a third wheel in the middle of “couple-land.” I was able to give him good counsel because of all the times I have felt like a third wheel even though I am part of a couple. Jesus was even there when I got in line behind a family taking communion together. Boy, that hurt, and I cried. I won’t gloss over it. There’s nothing like feeling alone in the middle of a group of people. But, of course, I couldn’t admit it to said group of people. I was able to admit it to Jesus later on though, and that’s when He reminded me He was there, even through the tears.
So, that’s what I learned during this Lent and Easter season. I learned that Jesus is always there for me even when other people are clueless or selfish. I learned that “community love” will always be broken and imperfect at least until we are with Jesus. And I learned that Jesus wants me to pay attention to the burdens He puts on my heart even when I’ve been told no by a “church person.” Because God always provides a way even when it seems impossible.
Father God, help me to put into practice the things I have learned. Help us all to pay attention to who we meet so we can share your love. Help us not to be clueless and selfish and help us to reflect your love in a world that desperately needs it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
God bless you all!