I mean, honestly, during all the Sunday School lessons, high school talks and special Bible studies, I’m not sure I heard any solid teaching about the church until I hit college. This was a problem because once I hit my bitter phases, I didn’t really have much of a doctrine of the church to fall back on; to me, the church wasn’t really the beloved bride of Christ; I hadn’t been forced to consider the import of Christ’s body to which He has inseparably bound Himself as its head; there wasn’t really a people of God, elected to be spotless and pure in Him.
Instead of understanding myself to be a part of the corporate Temple of God, I saw each of us as our own little dwelling of the Spirit, responsible to keep our own act clean.
Have You Prayed For It?
Early on in my own college-aged angst over the frustrations of church life, I got a piece of sage advice from an older Christian mentor. I think I had been complaining about all the ways my church, or the church, didn’t “get it,” or something like that, when they asked me, “Yes, that’s probably all very true, but have you been praying for it?”
Had I been praying for it?
To be honest, I don’t think I had. I thought the church was there to pray for me, not really the other way around.
Still, I found myself gently challenged in that question, so I started to pray for the church. Not perfectly, of course, but regularly. And actually, I not only prayed for it, I decided to commit myself to it and serve it more diligently.
And you know what? It made it worse in a lot of ways.
By praying for it and serving it, I began to love it like I never really had before. Instead of viewing it through the noncommittal, arm’s distance, American, semi-apathy I had settled into, I saw its weaknesses and failures in the stark, glaring light of love.
The thing about that love, though, is that it didn’t drive me away but drew me deeper in. I came to the point where walking away from it wasn’t even an option.
Even more, in light of prayer and time spent serving her, I began to realize that, in fact, some of my earlier frustrations with her were more to do with my youth and haste than her flaws. She turned out to be more holy and beautiful than I gave her credit for. I began to see all of the wonderful works Jesus was working in His Bride that I’d simply been too jaded and frustrated to notice before.
It’s not so much that I found out that she didn’t really have any flaws; it’s that I found out I had some too.