Being a church of misfits

There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear because of the noise, hurry and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.

Fredrick Faber

When I stop and listened, God showed me all the different ways He had been speaking to me over the last few weeks which I had not taken the time to let percolate.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading a book called ‘Running on Empty’. I was lead to read about overcoming your childhood emotional neglect – I’m off work for a month, you’d think some light reading would be in order. But this is the first thing God highlighted – you don’t need to look for Him, He is so ready to speak to us and can use anything to do it if we just listen.

It also reminds me that there are so many ways that, as parents, we can screw up our children that it’s nigh impossible not to. That’s the down side of my job as a counsellor: my training pretty much tells me I started screwing up my kids from before they were even born. After the initial guilt and how can I be different thoughts I actually found this liberating – now hear me out here. I’m not celebrating the fact that my children may need counselling some day, although it will help keep a colleague in business, but that you can’t get it right all the time no matter how hard you try.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. It’s about being good enough. But, even when you are good enough, your kid will still develop insecurities or making choices that you prefer they didn’t because you are not the only influence over your child. That is why I am so thankful for a church that prays for the children. It’s the most important thing you can do for these kids as a church – cover them in prayer. So for any parents out there, stop the guilt trips, you are doing a good enough job and that’s amazing.

The prayer that didn’t happen

Now, back to the book. It focuses on how what didn’t happen to us in childhood has a deep and long lasting impact on us as adults: how emotional neglect in childhood effects even seemingly successful and well functioning adults causing them to struggle with self-discipline and self care, or feel unworthy, disconnected and unfilled. I was struck by those words – self-discipline, self care, unworthy, disconnected and unfilled! I was challenged about how often I’m running on empty spiritually, another reason why I was sitting in the wee small hours writing this. Maybe I’m alone in this but I spend a lot of time running on empty because of what didn’t happen – the prayer that didn’t happen, the bible reading that didn’t happen, the thanking God that didn’t happen, the quietly spending time just sitting in His presence that didn’t happen, the simply acknowledging Him during the day that didn’t happen. Live a life without emotionally connecting with the Father then you are soon running on empty.

And the sad thing is I’ve got use to that being the norm. There is a saying that’s used in the counselling world often – ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’ and I think that’s a problem in our thinking as Christian’s. How many people have had the thought ‘I’m not where I should be with God right now so I can’t be used by him or do anything for Him?’ I felt God challenging me about the giving from an empty cup thing – that may be true in the counselling world but not in your relationship with Jesus: what we give to him or others shouldn’t be based on our feelings but on who He is.

Yes, it’s so much easier to give from the overflow but I was reminded about the widow who gave the last of the flour and oil she had to make bread to give to Elijah. The giving from pretty much empty enabled the pouring out to come. But we see those moments as the rare gems – like an oasis in a desert. Oh, how wrong we’ve got it. Instead, it’s like being in the sea; out from the beach. The seabed isn’t flat: it’s got shelf sand ridges so the water level may go up and down – sometimes it’s over your head and other times your ankle deep – but never empty.

I was challenged by this from Tozer during the week:

Our neglect of the doctrine of the blessed Third Person has had and is having serious consequences. For doctrine is dynamite. It must have emphasis sufficiently sharp to detonate it before its power is released. Failing this it may lie quiescent in the back of out minds for the whole of our lives without effect. The doctrine of the Spirit is buried dynamite. It’s power awaits discovery and use by the Church. The power of the Spirit will not be given to any mincing assent to pneumatological truth. The Holy Spirit Clare’s not all whether we write Him into our creeds in the back of our hymnals; He awaits our emphasis. When He gets into the thinking of the teachers He will get into the expectation of the hearers. When the Holy Spirit ceases to be incidental and again becomes fundamental, the power of the Spirit will be asserted once more among the people called Christians.

Satan has opposed the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any other doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, surrounded it with false notions and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church of Christ to receiver from the Father her divine and blood-bough patrimony. The church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth – that there is now for the child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Ghost.

AW Tozer

Full and satisfying – the opposite of running on empty, One with self-discipline and self care: feeling worthy, connected and filled.

Thinking about feeling worthy, connected and filled reminded me that when Neil first approached me about speaking the Holy Spirit kept prompting me with the words ‘being a church of misfits’. I felt God challenging me about what the church should look like. I had this picture of a jigsaw with lots of really weird shapes but, somehow, it fits. Not neatly, but beautifully. There are bits sticking out and it certainly doesn’t look like the bits fit together but it works. And the picture it makes? Well, it’s Jesus.

You see, I’m a misfit. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a sense of not ‘fitting in’. In schools, in clubs, in churches, in social groups, work places some how I tended to feel like an outsider. It became my go to position in most situations whether it was true or imagined– ‘I don’t really fit’. Thoughts like that are the weapons Satan uses to keep people from fully grasping our potential.

I’m too…

How many people are sitting in church feeling I don’t fit in here – I’m not spiritual enough, I’m too old, I’m too young, I’ve a disability, I’m not smart enough, I’ve mental health issues, I can’t attend all the meetings, I’m socially awkward, I’ve a past, I’m divorced, I’m single, I don’t know what my purpose is or I don’t think I have one.

That’s the people who make it through the door. Unfortunately there are so many people that don’t come to church because they have a belief that they won’t fit with them lot – “us lot”. They have The Christian life on some sort of pedestal that requires perfection and anything short of this would not be good enough. Worst still there are those who tried and because they didn’t fit with a churches view of a target congregation member were made to feel like an outsider.

I think about the 12 disciples – they were a mix of fishermen, tax collectors, one reportedly of noble birth, labourers, siblings, married, single, and different personalities. Many of them strong personalities.

I don’t believer they all fitted together but I do believe they belonged. I believe that’s what Jesus wants. He doesn’t want people to fit. There isn’t some mould that He wants us all to fit into. That’s a man-made lie.

What Jesus wants is for people to belong. So for anyone sitting there feeling they don’t fit… great! You’re not meant to. You are unique and you’ve something unique to offer. You are a misfit but be clear – you do belong. I read this quote again the other day and I’m pretty sure I’ve shared it before but feel it’s apt to end on it:

His purpose is to unite all those who love him into a family. So whenever people love him he draws them together to enjoy deep friendship, mutual care and support, and celebration of the love, forgiveness and wholeness that he has given them. These family units are what the church is intended to be. The ‘Father’s Family’ is also a channel of his love and healing to wounded people. As we love, accept and forgive one another, as God’s brothers and sisters, God’s love flows through us to heal one another. Through our brothers and sisters in God’s family, God provides the kind of love and acceptance that frees us from our fears and allows us to grow into greater wholeness as people. We can be ourselves, and be committed to others without fear of rejection. We can accept others in spite of their weaknesses. We can forgive even when others hurt us. All of this is because of God’s grace. We don’t have the ability within ourselves to be so loving, but God enables us to love that way. We don’t have the ability within ourselves to heal one another, but through us God heals others. Every Christian has this ministry. We are ‘grace givers’.

Floyd McClung