I get to this time of year, and I still can’t help but remember Angi’s last two weeks.
How brave she was. How much she endured. How quickly her faculties slipped away. How many people loved her.
Nine years ago.
I don’t want to forget. Ever. Not even if the last of my faculties slip away from me in the closing days of my life.
But I may not get that choice.
I also remember how those who loved us clustered around us — locally and virtually — and hoped/prayed for us and ministered to us. People who shared our faith. People who held other faiths. People who held no faith at all, except perhaps in other people.
They were our collective church.
And, ironically, in recent years that common desire of all those dear folks has contributed to the decline in my faith in church.
I’ve come to the conclusion that meeting as church and observing the sacraments and repeating the good words for an hour or three together one day a week has no value at all if we are not serving in the world the entire 24/7. None.
Yes, oddly enough I still have faith in the God who could have answered thousands of prayers and could have come through for Angi but didn’t. I don’t know His business, or how things work in eternity or what’s ultimately good as compared to what I want now. I know she didn’t suffer as long as she could have. I know that we all die; even His Son. I know that Angi was ready because she lived the life of the One she believed in, and served and loved others, often in selfless ways that humbled me.
It isn’t the Father, Son or Spirit I have trouble believing in.
It’s us folks who go to church, but aren’t the church any more or better than folks who don’t believe, but still live out a faith in others with love and compassion and grace.
So who’s lost and who’s not in this scenario? I’m glad I don’t have to sort it out, because I’m not qualified to judge. Just love.
I haven’t been to church in a year now. That’s not an indictment of anyone there; they are among the most wonderful and dearly-loved people in the world. They are my family, fellow believers and siblings in Christ. But I have to recognize that they are not the only ones who are children of God, dearly loved by Him.
I’m just not comfortable being in church and saying and doing the right things there, knowing that I’m not saying and doing and being what I should when I am not there. It’s an indictment of me.
But it’s also a deeply profound questioning of how we do things as church. How our time and resources are spent. Whether worship is for God or us. Whether service is for others or ourselves. Whether we need to spend on big buildings for 1-3 hours a week, or homes for the homeless and meals for the hungry and clothes for the shivering. Whether we need to spend for staff, lighting, projections, music in order to worship … or live out our worthship in service to others and reflecting God’s grace.
I think He’s big enough for me to be able to ask where He was when Angi needed Him.
I also think He has every right to ask me where I was when one of my neighbors needed me.
So, at least for now, I have pretty much lost my religion.
But I still have my faith.
Except, maybe, some of my faith in myself.