It can sometimes be found in churches, but it isn’t grown there. It’s planted in bankruptcy, divorce court, cancer wards, and abortion clinics. It’s watered with tears through sleepless nights. It sprouts in the cellar of guilt, and on Roman crosses. It’s collected outside empty tombs. It’s meant to be harvested – not bought.
We need to be reminded that whatever else True Christianity is, it’s organic. For too long we’ve been fooled by those prepackaged deals that offer all the taste and none of the mess. The truth is this: ever since the first Christmas morning it has been easier to find Jesus in places that smell more like manure than incense. It’s what He’s used to.
So yes, I’d like to offer you hope today, but it’s going to be hard if you don’t know what it’s like to find yourself standing in a pile of crap. If you fall into this category – the Church of the Rose-Scented Flatulence – I hope you’ll keep reading. There are some things we need to talk about. You may have begun to suspect that I am seriously flawed, and I totally agree. Let’s explore this fact in greater detail, because if you are breathing there is a good chance that we have a lot in common.
At its heart, though, this book is written for those who have already figured out that they and the world around them are deeply, profoundly, and irreversibly broken. We all have dirty little secrets and lost opportunities. There are times in life when we have to pass through spaces way too small for our hardened hearts, and we come out pinched and squeezed only to be flushed down the pipe of mortality.
I understand that there are more sanitary metaphors for life, but there isn’t a more accurate one. Surviving our tour of duty on planet Earth is a nasty business. Make no mistake: everyone has daily moments of pants-around-the-ankle vulnerability. We try to minimize the reality of our situation by making jokes. Some of us break out the religious potpourri in a desperate attempt to cover up suspicious odors, yet find that these measures are only temporary. Life is not a hygienic journey.
But what if there is true, lasting, hold-it-in-the-palm-of-your-hand hope? What would it look like? Could we find some?
Who sells it? Do they have a monopoly? Is it a pyramid scheme?
Many Christians are raised with the belief that their ancestors catalogued the answers to all the important questions long ago, and queries about the existence of hope fall into this category. If you walked up to a hard-core Baptist and asked about hope, this is the answer you’d get as defined in their secret Book of Pat Answers:
“Yes, there is hope. It doesn’t smoke or drink or swear, and its fingernails are clean and trimmed. We in fact do have a monopoly, but we’ll share with you if you’ll take a closer look at our club. We’ll see you at church next Sunday.”
The next Sunday you are gently lulled to sleep by 15 verses of some dusty hymn, and then you wake up to discover that you are surrounded by a grinning mob. They advance on you with clammy, outstretched hands and pale, pasted-on smiles. You find yourself in a fight for emotional integrity in an environment that leaves no room for pain or confusion.
This isn’t hope- it’s an Amway convention. You go there wearing spit-polished black shoes, not farm boots.
I can hear some of my brethren saying, “Whoa, Bill. Back off!”, and I understand where they are coming from. There are many churches where people can come as they are. There are sanctuaries where you don’t have to hide your composted past. I only wish there were more.
Come with me then, on a quest to find something that many members of the Christian religion have lost sight of. We’re not going far. Hope doesn’t spring from a mysterious life- giving fountain; it isn’t hidden on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. If you want to know where hope is found, look down.
You just stepped in it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! It is the proposed introduction for my upcoming book, “Where Hope and Mushrooms Grow – Searching for God in Less Than Sterile Places”. If you are intrigued and would like to read more, please help me get published by sharing this post, subscribing to the blog by email, and/or “liking” my facebook page.
Thank you so much for your help!
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