I complain a lot. I'm very aware of that. When people describe me, they often use words like "critical" or "cynical". I recognize that that is their way of saying that I whine a lot. I don't deny it. I tend to think of what I would change about something before I think about what I like about it. What I am describing right now is certainly not one of my sexier traits. (I do have some sexy traits) It is what it is. It is apart of me. Not always a part I like, but certainly a defining part. Sometimes my own whining gets to me. Maybe it doesn't get to me often enough. I don't like feeling negative. I don't like bringing others down. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more on the Pollyanna-ish side. I think sometimes my negativity leaves me feeling iscontent in the midst of otherwise very good circumstances. Maybe that's what I have been wrestling with lately.
The truth of the matter is that though I have not settled in one community, I have been dipping my toes into several different ones, each with things that I really love. Without saying names of places, I do want to celebrate what those communities I am apart of have to offer.
One of the things that I have grown to appreciate about one of the communities I have been around since returning is the feeling of family. It is hard to define that feeling. Sometimes you know that you are welcome in a place and people will pardon whatever sins you bring in with you because you are apart of the family. They won't excuse your sins, but they will forgive. Maybe more importantly, they'll let you know that they're flawed as well. In its healthiest sense, family is the place where you can feel most comfortable being yourself. A lot of churches don't want that. They want the cleaned up, sanitized version of you. It is a blessing when you know that you can be who you are and that that person who you are is loved.
Another thing I have really grown to appreciate is communities that walk the line between tradition and innovation. I think younger church folks tend to want to throw out the more traditional elements of the faith. That tends to include people. It is fun to be apart of churches that listen to the older voices as they navigate contemporary issues. But you also have to invent. The church is facing a lot of things that people didn't have to deal with in the fifties. Having our eyes and ears faced towards the culture is not a bad thing along as we're not being corrupted by it. I appreciate the emphasis on mission many of the places I go to now have. When I say "mission", I'm not talking about going overseas or some committee within the church. I mean the idea of the church seeing itself as on a mission, that being to continue the work of Jesus Christ. There is something empowering that happens when people are told that they are doing Christ's work. Finally, I love the church. I love the diversity of thought and past experience that comes together, for whatever reason, to become the church. Much of the time, I think of te church as a student not living up to her/his potential. Still, I have to remember is that from the broken vessel that is the church, many good people have emerged, some damaged, but all faithful. We have all been shaped and molded by the body of Christ. Easy to overlook all the good that is being done in the world in the name of Christ. Good tends to fly under the radar. Many local expressions of Christ's body have poured into who I am now. I am thankful for that.