I don’t need no one
Warren Zevon, Splendid Isolation, from the album Transverse City
I have shared before that I am suffering through a bout of depression. Kind of like a lingering cold, it’s there in the background just enough to drag me down but not enough to knock me out. Most days, that is. Yes, I am taking the meds prescribed by my doc, who is a good man and says that he believes this is just temporary. I make it through my work days just fine; interacting with customers and coworkers seems to energize me. But when it comes to Sundays, I want to hide. I have found it very difficult to drag myself to church these last few months. And that bothers me.
I know we are very critical of what we term the “evangelical circus” here on this site. I know we have many readers who feel the same, and have given up on church all together because of the narcissistic nature of today’s Western Christianity. Yet I still feel church is a vital part of a disciple’s life. It is not to be discarded just because many churches are no more than religious social clubs. If we are to believe church—a regular, consistant gathering of believers in Jesus—was God’s idea, then why would we think it unimportant to him whether we are committed to one?
So on many Sunday mornings when my illness is acute and I would rather pull the covers over my head and hide, I remind myself of the reasons church is vital in the life of a follower of Jesus. On those days when I’m feeling fine emotionally, but don’t want to attend services because I know we’ll sing happy-clappy songs from the latest Time/Life praise and worship CD or because we have a guest speaker who will be hawking his books rather than preaching from The Book, I remind myself why church is important to its Founder. I want to share some of those reasons why I see church as still serving a central role in the Christian’s life.
A spleen can’t live on its own Paul talks of the church being a body. Some are hands, others are feet. Some are “less seemly members.” That would be me. No one ever says, “Your baby has the cutest spleen.” Or, “There goes a girl with the hottest pancreas I’ve ever seen.” I’m like a spleen or pancreas. I’m not the part of the body people want to see. Yet no matter what body part you most resemble, you can’t live on your own. The strongest, firmest hand in the world—one with manicured nails, even—will wither and die if cut off at the wrist. The smartest brain known to mankind can’t see or hear or eat or listen to Reds’ games on the radio on its own.
The same applies for you and me. We need each other. Like it or not, we are part of a Christian body. If we aren’t, we will die.
If you’d rather use an agricultural example, Jesus said that he is the vine, we are the branch. Vines don’t have just one branch. They have many. And branches don’t get to choose what other branches they are connected to. One fact is clear: if the branch doesn’t like hanging out with other branches, it can only be by itself by separating from the vine. And then you will quickly have a dried-up, dead branch that is only good for the fire.
Man does not live by bread alone “But,” you say, “I prefer to spend my Sunday mornings reading the Bible and some good devotional books.” And the Sunday paper? Ok, I won’t meddle. And of course there’s nothing wrong with reading your Bible. I love to read Scripture. I also read My Utmost For His Highest and Streams In The Desert most every day (the online versions). And that doesn’t include my library of other theological and inspirational books I have to draw from. These are all fine resources to have available and to use. But if I only practice my faith in front of a mirror with a book—even The Book—in my hand, what kind of faith is that? Yes, I know I need to live my faith outside of church as well, but what a great place to practice. There is meat to eat in church that is not available anywhere else.
We need to be vulnerable Ok, now I am meddling. I’m the first one in line for life in a bubble, where no one can get to me and touch me where I hurt. I have no problem praying for others, but to ask for prayer for my depression? But then people will know I have problems!
We spend so much time, energy and money keeping others from seeing that we have problems, don’t we? When I went forward recently and asked two elders in my church to pray for me because I am battling depression, one looked aghast. “How can that be?” he asked. “You are someone I always want to hang out with because you’re always so much fun.” Just shows how great an actor I can be. Oh yeah—that Greek word for “actor.” Hippo-something-or-other, isn’t it? But I will only give up play-acting when I practice being real with others in my church. It ain’t easy, but it is necessary.
When the Pillar of Fire moves I don’t want to be left in the desert God led the children of Israel through the desert as a Pillar of Fire by night, and a Cloud of Glory by day. When the cloud lifted and began to move, the Israelites were to strike camp and move quickly. If I am not in the camp, but out hiding in a cave, when will I know the Cloud is moving? How can I follow the Lord by myself?
This is where the meal is served The table of the Lord is in a church. It’s not coffee and a hot glazed at Krispy Kreme. It’s not a skinny latte and a scone at Starbucks. It is bread and wine served by and shared with those you call your church family. You eat it with the weird, the wounded, the wild. You drink it with those you pray for, and those who pray for you. You partake of it humbly alongside your fellow sinners whom God calls saints. It is the meal that sustains, that heals, that reminds us we are now alive for the first time, forever. And it is found in the house of God called the church.
I’m not going to be healed by this Sunday. When my alarm goes off, I’ll still want to shut it off and hide from the world. And I’ll struggle to pull on shorts, a shirt, and flip-flops and drive six and a half miles to my place of worship. But I hope to do so. Not out of a sense of duty, but out of a desire for life.
Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong.