with guest blogger Julie Cantrell.
When I was younger, I looked at the members of my church as fine, upstanding Christian folks. They were the morally upright. The light in the darkness. The clean, sober, freshly-pressed, Rated-G version of humanity. And that was the way we were all supposed to behave. Christ-like. Holy. Sinless.
But then I grew up, and I realized that all those shiny, perfect people were not so perfect after all. Some were closet drinkers and backyard swearers. Others were wife beaters and porn addicts. A few were substance abusers. A lot were cheaters, liars, and cons. None were without sin.
Some had no more love in their hearts than the devil himself. And this realization left a sour taste in my mouth for the church. Were Christians a bunch of hypocrites? Shouting Amen on Sunday morning after all commandments had been broken the other six days of the week? If so, I wanted nothing to do with such falsities and bigotry. I turned away from the church for many years, and my stomach churned each time I’d hear a Hallelujah!
But then I grew up some more. And I came full circle. I came to realize that, yes, our pews are filled with imperfect people. We are sinners, all of us. Some drinkers, some cheaters, some liars, some abusers, but what a wonderful thing that the church opens its doors to such messy, broken, lost souls every week!
We are, in fact, broken and lost. The whole bunch of us. Even those of us who think we have it all figured out. We are seekers. We are all still searching for answers, truth, hope. For love.
As I’ve matured beyond the age during which I judged those well-intentioned hypocrites in the pews, I’ve come to accept a hard truth about myself. I’m not perfect either. I’m a sinner too.
I may not have a porn addiction. I may not abuse drugs. I may not steal or cheat or beat my loved ones. But I fail daily to live as Christ intended us to live. I make mistakes and missteps, and for that I need a daily dose of Grace.
I do sometimes hurt people with my words, even if I don’t mean my sentences to be interpreted that way. I sometimes exaggerate, even when I intend to be completely honest. And I have been known to raise my voice when I get pushed too far. I always feel like a horrible human being when I yell at someone I love. It is horrible. It’s beyond horrible. I know better. I want to do better. But sometimes, I yell.
Maybe this means I have no right to sit in that pew on Sunday mornings at the Oxford University United Methodist Church. Maybe that bad word I let slip last week is enough to have me banned. Maybe that comment I made to my best friend tilted just a little too much into the realm of gossip, and for that, I have no right to call myself a Christian. Maybe that second scoop of ice cream made me a glutton. Yes, I’m sure. It did.
Where do we draw the line?
I want and I NEED to be in that pew not because I am perfect. But because I am IMPERFECT. I am flawed and flailing and I need all the help I can get as I carry this little soul through this great big world.
Life is hard, and if it hasn’t swept the floor out from under you yet, just wait. It will. Why?
Because that’s what this journey is about. We suffer. And in the suffering, we discover our true selves. We ache and we lose and we grieve and we struggle, and it is in that horrifically painful crucifixion of our souls that we get to choose. We can choose God (love), and therefore be redeemed. Renewed. Reborn. Or we can chose hate (evil), in which case we stay lost. Dead. Empty.
To every lying, cheating, stealing, drinking, drugging, gambling, back-talking, foul-mouthed, hateful-hardened soul, I hope to see you in church this Sunday. And I hope you’ll choose love.
And to all you perfect people who never have sinned, I hope you’ll welcome us there with a great, big soulful Hallelujah. And I hope you’ll chose love, too.
Let’s chat: How has your view of the church changed throughout your life? Have you ever been discouraged by the church community? Encouraged? Do you view organized religion in a positive or negative light? Why?
Today Seekerville is honored to give two readers the chance to read their choice of an ecopy of Into the Free or When Mountains Move. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
In January, The Feathered Bone releases. You can preorder it today!
“Feathers—no matter what size or shape or color—are all the same, if you think about them. They're soft. Delicate. But the secret thing about feathers is . . . they are very strong.”
In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.
Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks in depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.
Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.
Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She has contributed to more than a dozen books in addition to her two children’s books and award-winning novels.
Her debut novel, Into the Free, received the Christy Award for Book of the Year (2013) as well as the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. It earned a rare starred review by Publishers Weekly and was selected as one of five finalists for the University of Mississippi Common Reading Experience 2014. It also was selected as a Best Read of the year by LifeWay, USA TODAY, and many bookclubs.
Cantrell’s sophomore novel, When Mountains Move, is the sequel to her debut. Since its release in September 2013, it has been named a 2013 Best Read by LifeWay, was shortlisted for several awards, and won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Her third novel, The Feathered Bone, will release January 2016.