I’m standing in our new kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee, and typing on our island counter as I look around at the sea of boxes. The office in the basement isn’t set up yet. Our bedroom is a mess. The number of boxes needed to be unpacked seems to grow by the day. It’s a little overwhelming, while at the same time exciting. We bought our first house. In this housing market, it was only by God’s hand that our offer was accepted. Every time I look around, I am grateful to God that He has given us this space for us to call home.
As soon as the ink dried on, what seems like, the thousands of papers you sign to buy a house, I was ready to walk in and start making it our home. Visions of dinner parties, wine nights, children running around the backyard as Phil and I sit out on our back patio filled my mind for weeks while we waited for our closing date. The reality is a little less glitz and glamour. Every unpacked box we sift through and unpack we find ourselves asking, “Do we really have this much stuff?”
We had new couches delivered the day before we moved in. I can’t tell you how exciting that was for me. I think that’s when you become an adult – when you’re excited about big furniture purchases. Again, I imagined hosting friends, having long conversations hanging out in our living room. Truly, if I could host people at our place every day I probably would because I love the feel of the living room.
But, there’s a difference between hosting a party and hosting your best friends, right? When we host a party we clean the house, we sweep the pile of clothes or laundry basket into the closet and shut the door. We tend to make all our furniture neat with pillows placed in exactly the right spots. We have food platters, cheese and sausage boards, and drinks nicely displayed on the counters waiting for people to come. More than likely we are dressed in our better clothing. We want the appearance of being organized, tidy, and fun.
When I host my best friends it’s completely different. They don’t need an invitation. My best friends can come over whenever and don’t even need to knock on our door. They come right in. They see the mess of toys on the floor from our kids. They see the piles of laundry that need to be done, or are done, but haven’t been folded yet. They can grab food and drink out of the refrigerator and do not need me to set it out for them. When we host best friends, there’s no need to put on anything for special for them because they know us deeply and love us in all the mess of life. Both literal mess and figurative mess.
The same is true with God. Our lives are messy because we are sinful people.
Have you ever heard someone say that they can’t go to church because they’ve done too many bad things for God to forgive them? Have you heard someone say that God is mad at them?
Have you heard someone say they feel as though they’re not put together enough to come to church?
I have heard it many times from many people, It breaks my heart in two each time. I want to shout from the rooftops, “There is nothing too big for God to forgive and help you through!”
And yet, even as a life-long Christian, there are times when I feel like I need to put on a mask to walk in the door at church. There are times when I water things down for God because I feel as though he will be ashamed of how I acted. Those are the days when I place a strained smile on my face and walk through the doors. Those are the days I push everything I’m struggling with aside as I talk with a friend from church and answer, “I’m good” when they ask me how I am.
Have you been there too?
Maybe you’ve been fighting with your family on the way to church and then walk into the building with everyone thinking that you all have it together. Maybe you’ve been away from the church for a long time because you felt the sin you’ve been struggling with over and over needs to be gone before you can go back.
Friends, the church is not for perfect people.
It’s for the broken.
It’s for the lost.
It’s for the heartbroken and needy.
It’s for the lonely.
The church is the family on earth God has given us to rally each other, love each other, hold each other up.
The church is a place to come as you are because we’ve all got sin. We’ve all got baggage.
And Jesus invites us to come, confess, be forgiven, and be given his grace and mercy. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus wants your piles of mess. Just as you would let your best friend come into your house and see the dirt, laundry, dishes, boxes…Jesus knows and sees all your mess too. And he invites you to come and rest with him. He wants those long conversations. He wants you to rest in His Word and in His promises. He’s done all the work already on the cross and in his resurrection.
The church, at it’s best, is the place you come to and know you don’t have to sweep your mess into the drawers and closet. No. It’s the place where we come to be given the gifts of God and to be supported by our family. That support might look like a meal for someone who is sick. That support might mean helping hold someone accountable. That support might look like babysitting for an overwhelmed mom in need of a break. That support could be listening to someone who needs to share how they really are doing and not just answer with another, “I’m good. You?”
The church is so very beautiful when done this way. The gifts we are given in baptism and communion. The grace we are given in confession and absolution. The support we given in the fellowship of people. It’s all meant to show the glory and love of God. There is no good enough to be there. There is no need to wait until you’ve got it all together.
If you haven’t been back to church in while. I invite you to go back. To return to the love of the Father’s house.
You’ll be welcomed just as you are.