Sunday, July 18, 2010

Church ladies

photo by Paul Lowry

This past week I hosted a spa party at my home. I invited a number of women from church and the lone neighbor who actually happened to be outside long enough for me to corner chat with her. She declined, giving various excuses about needing to mow her lawn, being all sweaty, not looking up to par, being tired from a week of work. I tried to dispel her arguments, "No really, who cares what you look like? Look at me! It's a spa party, it's supposed to be relaxing and it sounds like you could use it! Mow your lawn, shower and you'll STILL have time to come." But no deal, she was steadfast.

I suspected another reason hiding behind the surface ones, a reason that was later confirmed. Even though I hadn't said a word about the guest list she knew who was coming...Church ladies. And she didn't think she'd fit in.

When did it become this way? Oh sure, in the 1st century when Christians were being tossed to the lions I can see why your average unbeliever would say "You know, I think I'll pass on being seen at your party." And yet the growth of the church in spite of persecution tells us that there must have been something about these Christians that drew others to them. But at some point, lions and persecution aside, we got the reputation as 'People you don't want to hang out with'. Is it the picture of the pious saint, nibbling cookies and rhapsodizing about the five hours spent in prayer that morning? (On her knees. On the wood floor. With splinters.) Is it the picture of Christians as an exclusive club of dour evangelists who will only admit you to our gatherings if you accept the '5 Steps to Salvation and Living a Righteous Life Unlike Those Worldly Sinners' booklet and promise to adhere to its guidelines? Or maybe we've been pegged as the type who put on sweet faces and say "Bless your heart" as we stick the knife of gossip in your back.

It hurts my heart to know that somewhere along the line my neighbor has decided that Church ladies = people she wouldn't feel comfortable around. Like we are somehow so radically different from her that none of us have ever made mistakes or struggled with our weakness. That maybe we would regard her as a 'project' to be 'led to the altar' and then discarded. That she just wouldn't have anything in common with any of us and would have no fun.

If that is what she thinks of when she thinks of Church ladies then in some way I am failing. I am failing to reflect the love and grace that have been showered on me. I am failing to reflect the reality of being part of the body of Christ and yet part of this world. Because the reality is that in my house that night were a bunch of flawed and crazy women. Yes, I can lean towards the prim and proper has more to do with introversion than any thought that somehow that makes me more holy. But as a whole we were a motley group of brash and reserved, rocker, nature lovers, horse riding, gardening, creating, stumbling, rising, life-living ordinary women.  We worship passionately, but we also live life passionately and in that we could have found common ground.

I'm on a mission now. A mission to change what those around me think of when they think of Church ladies. I want their first thoughts to be of grace, of joy, of gentleness, of welcome. I want them to see a flawed individual being made whole by the grace of God. I want them to see my heart. I want them to see the heart of God.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3: 7-14 (NIV)


  1. wow. i just posted a 'same but different' post on my blog. i think maybe the Lord is trying to tell us something.

    ps. you said it much more eloquently. love your style.

  2. Off to look at your post...