Last year, I wrote a piece on feeling outside of Christianity. My issue was not theological, although I have those. No, my issue was that I was not wanted, at least not as I am. They wanted the married guy with three kids, the guy who went to seminary and got a Ph.D. in theology, but the guy who struggles terribly was asked to put his feelings aside for decades in order to be part of the church. I couldn’t be bipolar and Christian, at least that is the way numerous churches have acted.
But, I’m in a better place now. I work for a Christian organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This work has really opened me up to the way that other people struggle, even when they might not have the ability to conceptualize that suffering. Our clients are bold, beautiful, and exhibit the person of Christ on a continual basis. As do the staff and other people I work with. There’s no perfection, but they have restored much of the way that I approach my Christian life.
Similarly, that above post led to a church (of a friend) asking me to speak. I spoke about living with bipolar and what that meant for how I view God. And, in that church (River Park Grace in South Bend), my family and I have found a home. My boys are less likely to groan and moan about the 30 minutes of travel there than they are if we go to another church here in town. I think they know it’s because they know we can come as we are, truly as we are. It’s not perfect, but it’s good for us (and a little plug, Easter is going to be very cool).
Mostly, though, I feel like I am out of that Jacob moment with the church. If you do not know the story, Jacob was a person chosen by God in the Book of Genesis. Jacob did not really live a good life. And, eventually, Jacob and God wrestle for an entire night. Jacob ends up with a hurt hip (there are different interpretations as to if he broke it or not). But, the point is that God won and that Jacob was bruised and hurt, but came out better on the other side. I feel like I have reached a similar point with the church. I’m still critical (I’m a theologian, come on!), but I’ve also done a lot to not hold onto some of the baggage and hurt that I carried with me. I have stopped listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of articles because they just upset me, no matter how true they may be. I’ve really just brushed a lot of the negativity away and worked in an extremely hard way to be more positive (not my natural disposition).
So, this Good Friday and Easter, know it gets better. Life does not have to suck, it does not have to bog you down. There’s enough out there that wants to make you believe the worst about yourself and the people around you. It’s not worth it. The more that we give in to death and pain, the more likely it is that we will be sources of pain and death in the lives of those we love. It doesn’t mean we won’t hit hard times or difficulties, but that we can come out on the other side, pick up the pieces, and continue on our journey to what God has truly created us to be. Best wishes to all!