It is 2 a.m. and the spring winds, notorious for producing tornadoes in Oklahoma, are keeping me awake. The giant elm that towers outside my bedroom window is spitting tiny branches into the window pane. I’m afraid it might break into pieces and crash through my window and crush me. The wind doesn’t rustle in Oklahoma; it is reckless and vengeful, and I have such pleasant thoughts in the middle of the night.
It is 2 a.m. and I am eating one of the 36 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I bought. Yes, 36. This is because that is how many I told the troop leader Juliette would sell. But, I hate selling, and I hate having my kid impose on friends and family, and so I just bit it and bought them all. Now, I’m eating them all. Especially right now, because it is 2 a.m. and the wind has awakened me, and because Easter is nine days away and I have no idea where on earth we are going to church.
I have had a growing disconnect with church ever since Obama was elected President. The bitter, scathing and caustic political debate has driven too many moderates and liberals away from the largely conservative churches, which dominate the Oklahoma landscape. In essence, this debate has reduced separation of church and state to a mere technicality. Tax exemption status is only at risk in the pulpit. Has the IRS ever dinged a church because members espoused political views in the pew? Do they perform audits on the cold-staring-down of Democrats by Republicans while dropping off babies at the church nursery?
What did I ever do? Wahhhhhh. Blog, that’s what. And, remind everyone the Canon has not been amended and FOX is not the 67th book of the Bible. And, guess what? Glen Beck with his freakish Nazi-like book cover is not the 13th disciple.
To be fair, this is not just a problem at churches with conservative members. Some of the most politically sophisticated and influential congregations in Oklahoma are predominantly liberal, and few conservatives would feel comfortable darkening their doors. The knife cuts both ways, even if this is the reddest state in the union. Still, I think conservatives in Oklahoma would do well to remember that 33 percent of people in this state did in fact vote for Obama. Maybe they shouldn’t talk so loud in the vestibule.
Before I had children, Easter was my favorite holiday. Now, my kids’ Christmas smiles make for some tough competition. But, for religious reasons, Easter remains a high holy day for me on the most personal of levels. And, my father loved Easter. He never failed to remind me year after year as he pulled on his in-style and then eventually out-of-style black suit, that Easter was the day we remembered the suffering of Christ; His bloodshed on the cross – His sacrifice that loosed the flood of God’s mercies to man. This love has shaped my life more than anything.
And, yet, hippity-hop, Easter’s on its way, and I have become the quintessential Gen Xer who feels disaffected from church whether I go or not. I think about all those clever sayings about how if a hypocrite is standing between me and church, then the hypocrite is closer to God than me, but, I don’t believe that anymore. I just can’t subject myself to another poser. If I wanted to join a country club, I would. What I want is to be in a church like my former pastor said all churches are meant to be, but rarely are – a hospital for the spiritually sick and wounded.
For 10 years, in a state with a church on every corner, I’ve been hoping for the Oklahoma version of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. I need to be in the presence of those who come for the Balm of Gilead – who are desperate for the antidote to the poisonous sting that is hunting their hope and devouring their promise. It is Christ. I need to open the jar that is me and pour out the salve that is Christ’s love in me. I’m in all the wrong places at all the right times.
Unfortunately, I think the Easter basket (of all things) has become a metaphor for church. Hollow like the chocolate bunnies and sticky sweet like the pink and yellow peeps. Even worse, it’s become like the hard-boiled eggs – emotionally hardened to those who need Christ the most. And, if I sound bitter, well you don’t know me very well, because I’m worse than that. I’m resigned. I just endure, and bonnet-up like so many Gen Xers still going to church – for the sake of the kids. Our family is all wearing yellow this year. I’m sure we’ll look very cute should someone start talking about Jesus being flogged and tasting vinegar – and gall.
In case I never had the guts or the goo to say it until now, God loves you, and whether you make it to church this Easter or not, He is pursuing you. If He wasn’t, you wouldn’t have read this all the way to the end. And, if He’s pursuing you, what is it He wants to say to you? Probably, I love you. That’s all, but it’s only a guess.