Monday, March 7, 2016

Easy Street

Easy street
Where you sleep til noon.
{annie soundtrack}

I drove up into my church parking lot yesterday. It's the same church lot I've been driving into every (okay most every) Sunday for the past ten years. This church is a wealthy church. Wealth is not what first attracted me to it; in fact, this church has grown since it's youthful days of meeting in a school auditorium. But as I waited for the driver of a Range Rover to let me pass, and I sat down on my cushy church pew, and listened to the contemporary Christian music (compliments of our very own band) blast from a really nice sound system, I started to wonder...what am I going to church for? What is the church here for? What is it's purpose? The youth group has a full breakfast awaiting them downstairs. The younger youth have cookies and cinnamon rolls, and the adults get to enjoy cakes, cookies and pastries between services in the fellowship hall. And this might be typical for many of the churches in the area, as they, along with area merchants and businesses, have had to figure out a way to attract some paying customers. And since there are approximately seven churches within a two mile radius of the one I attend, it would make sense to give the people what they want, since they can easily withdraw at any time and go to a different church that serves different music and different pastries and has different people. Different. Better. More exciting.

She like them bar with the big ol' chains
Ride around town in a big ol' Range.
{work out, j.cole}

It's not the fault of anyone, really, since pastors and churches have had to change with the times. And 2016 in 'Merica brings with it such stark contrast between the luxurious life of those on top and the desperate lives of those just getting by. I do believe that people innately want things to be easy, because who would choose for life to be hard? Yet I believe that we are so caught up in achieving a life settled in on Easy Street that life becomes narrow and defined by money and success and things. And money, and success, and things all have a shelf life. Is it 5 months or 5 years? No one can know that for certain, but those things will fade, and as Job said "I came here naked and I'll leave here naked". Meaning all of us came into the world with nothing, and will leave with nothing. No one, not even the most powerful human being in the world, can change that fact.

I do enjoy the benefits of belonging to a church that is willing to provide like my church is willing to provide. There is a country club aspect to it, with our flat screen TVs and our beautiful windows and 5,000 different ministries and our well-dressed community. A community that is willing to be open but only so much. I'm not downing the church as much as I am questioning why I go. Is it for learning and community or the coffee? Because I do like myself some Rwandan coffee. 

Yesterdays sermon, by the way, was about honoring the Lord. And specifically honoring the Lord with our wealth. 

And isn't that a hard thing to do.

I've read that we hold on tightest to the things that are the most important to us, and are only willing to sacrifice those things that are easy to let go. And since we as a culture hold money in such high esteem, it's really hard to let go of. 

Or maybe it's the other way around, and the love of money won't let go of me.

Because it's not money that is the root of all evil. It's the absolute adoration and love of it.

As I cast this critical eye on no one in particular except for myself, I wonder if the love of money and the subsequent chasing after it is drowning out the heartbeat of the church and it's message. Because the message of the Gospel is love, and it's love for people, not the things we gather and that eventually collect dust. And it's love for all people, from all walks of life. Which means that all people should feel welcome and not only so but loved by our community of church members. It should be plain to all that the Range Rover out in the parking lot isn't what we are holding closest to our heart, and the reason we are coming to church is not for the free coffee and pastries, or to only commune with our nearest and dearest friends. The church stands for so much more, yet I feel like it some ways it has, along with its members, dumbed itself down in order to attract more people. Are we smothered by the love of money and it's power to numb our senses and dull our minds? Maybe. 

Listen. This is simply the musings and ramblings of a girl wondering the best way to honor the Lord, while living the life of honoring herself by feeding herself the things she wants the most. I say with my lips lined with lipliner and lipgloss that I really do hear the message of honor and love, and then go live the life of honoring my things. I wonder what message I'm sending, but I think I already know. I can say 'I love you' but I really don't want to get my hands dirty. And I also wonder...is there a way to stop a bullet train? Is there a way to turn a heart so in love with the culture's idea of success and happiness? Is there a way to change a mind so set on gathering what makes it the most temporarily satisfied? I know that if I say yes, then I will probably feel some pressure to change, but if I say no, then I can stay complacent in my satisfyingly numbed state of mind. Better yet, if I stay indecisive and wavering, then I don't have to make a decision at all. I can continue to sing praises with my lips and live life just as I always have. Except that this little nagging feeling won't go away, and my mind keeps on churning out words and thoughts about life that make me uncomfortable, and I keep having to push down my thoughts about where my loyalty really lies every time I deposit my whole entire check into my checking account, without any thoughts of my 10%, while telling myself that I work hard and I deserve what I earn. 

Except who gets to decide who deserves what. Because some really underserving people have made it really big, and some really deserving people continue to struggle. In my opinion.

That's the beauty of the gospel, honestly. No one deserves anything, yet we have been given the gift of love and a direct line to God. And the ourpouring of gratefulness from our hearts results in mercy and grace and sharing that love with others. It's not mine to hold onto, I'm just a person who I'd like to be open enough for it to flow through. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not. Sometimes I turn my gaze away and I fill my eyes with what looks appetizing, yet never fills. 

Church: I'm not critizing you. 
People: I'm not critizing you, either. 
Heather: you might want to look at your heart and be open to some growth and maturity. 

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