let's lay down arms, love

I was on-fire all right, and I've got a stack of earnest prayer journals to prove it. Christian concerts, youth groups, Jesus camp, the whole nine yards. I was all in and got the tee-shirt--or rather the tank top, signed by one of the razor-haired blonds from DC Talk.

But I've been thinking a lot lately of how I landed on this side of evangelicalism without the catastrophic crash-and-burn that turned so many of my peers into spiritual refugees. I keep wondering, What was different for me? and I think there was a light and a darkness that cut a different path.

I grew up in a Christian home and an angry home. I was a "good kid" who followed the rules, but my mother and I fought to the teeth, and I couldn't wait to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge.

I knew there was more peace in the homes of my friends who did not follow Jesus, and it killed me that my family loved Jesus so much and treated each other so terribly. It killed me that I loved Jesus so much and treated my family so terribly. I tried and I prayed and I cried and I wrestled, but I could not curb my anger or control my tongue.

I never was the perfect Christian kid, and my house never was the perfect Christian home. I knew I needed grace as much as anyone, and I never had any illusions that being a Christian meant having your shit together. I knew for a fact it didn't.

The lighter side was that the Christian communities to which I belonged (including my family) loved me fiercely, and faith never was tied to legalism or shame. They introduced me to a Jesus who loved and forgave and not a set of rules to follow, and today I can trace a path from there to here that reveals God's faithfulness all along.

the Church {a love letter}

You never were cool, but I liked your style:
flannel graphs, butter cookie tins, and junior choir
solos less about perfection than presence.
Gifts offered a King (enthusiasm counted)
Love served warm and strange as potluck,
rhythms generous, comfortable, and
radical in their simplicity

Deep and wide, Deep and wide, There's a fountain flowing deep and wiiiiiiiiide

Wasn't there, though?
A grace-well as big as our Lord

We're many kinds of people With many kinds of faces
All colors and all ages too From all times and places

That truth (along with the joy! joy! joy! joy!)
burrowed heart-deep and took root

The church is not a building The church is not a steeple
The church is not a resting place The church is a people
presbyterian, baptist, non-denominational, emergent, episcopal,
In barn or basement, chapel or church
at summer camp in the woods or
atop the city,
we worshiped with the Body beautiful.
Your raiment varied and vibrant,
colorful as the members who shared our first Love

I am the Church You are the Church We are the Church together
All who follow Jesus All around the world
Yes we're the Church together

I'm not naïve:
you are as damaged as you are lovely
Your sharp accusations stung, left me
gasping for breath. Conditional
love at times stained my cheeks
But I'm no innocent, I know that.
My words wielded like daggers and
I've withheld grace, too
Unforgiveness is an ugly mistress
God, we're a wretched lot

But our imperfect love is velveteen real
surpassing what-if, should-have, and didn't-you
every day of the week

Community is hard. Love is harder
--and easier, too, somehow. Half is showing up

At our best, you pointed me to the One who
holds us together, reconciling to
a Father who loves, the
creation that groans, and
one another, that we may be healed

You knew my heart,
the hard and wounded places, too,
and loved me all the more

Our Love lights the darkness
never so hot or bright as when our gaze turns outward
Let's lay down arms, love
Take my hand and remember
the Hope to which we are called

My friend Addie Zierman's book is out today: When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. It is resonating with and healing so many, and if you grew up "on-fire"--or know someone who burned out along the way or is longing to start over--you're gonna want to get your hands on her lovely first effort, which is honest about the hard stuff and ultimately hopeful.

Spend some time on her site, How To Talk Evangelical, read the rest of the synchroblog, and get her book. Proud of you, Addie!

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