I need to start by saying that I love my church. I love the people there and the community. I feel we have a greater than average share of eclectic, quirky people when compared most churches I have been to. We are accepting and welcoming more than I feel is normal for a church. Those people are my family and I love them! But we still have a long ways to go, in my opinion. And I feel that "the church", in the broad sense of the word, should be more like the waiting room at the therapist's office.
Yesterday I spent a little more than an hour in the waiting room at Fraser. Fraser is a mental health specialty clinic for kids. They are mainly known for their amazing work with autism, but they work in all areas of mental health. It is a wonderful place and one for which we are very, very grateful! I have spent Thursday afternoons there for almost a year now, (for a while we spent time there on Friday too, but we've weaned down to once a week!). The woman that we see there (who we are adore, and care about, and are so, so thankful for, and who has made a huge difference in the life of one of our kiddos and, thus, in the life of our family as a whole) had surgery earlier this winter and so this was our first week back since before Christmas. (7 weeks off of therapy, especially in the midst of a major home remodel, is really tricky for a kid who has a significantly hard time with changes to routine and unpredictability!) So, after that break, I feel like I was seeing things with fresh eyes yesterday.
Many of our same "friends" were there in the waiting room with me. Familiar faces. But there were new people that I didn't recognize as well. The Fraser waiting room is a unique place. So very much diversity! Ethnic diversity. Economic diversity. Age diversity (the woman sitting next to me, who I have had short conversations with from time to time, brings her GREAT grandson to his therapy each week). Language diversity (there is always at least one interpreter in the room to relay information from therapist to parent). Diversity of abilities. Diversity in the issues that bring us each to Fraser. It reminds me a bit of what I imagine heaven to be like.
It is the least "calm" waiting room I have EVER been in. Kids throw major fits there. Sometimes they lay down, refusing to move, in the middle of the floor. It is loud! People often act in ways that would not be socially acceptable in any other setting. Loving therapists and parents can be found sitting in the middle of the floor trying to engage with a kiddo they care about and want to help who has shut down or is being oppositional. If people need to get by them (because they are, quite literally, sitting in the middle of the floor of the small waiting room) they just step over or around and give a sympathetic smile. It is the least judgmental setting that I have ever been in. It has a vibe of we've-been-there-too, keep-up-the-fight, you-can-do-it. Solidarity! Parenting is hard, hard work! That is universal. But some kiddos are even harder than average.
Everyone in that waiting room is desperate. They realize they can't do it alone and need help and wisdom and support. They are at the end of their ropes and knowledge and ability and are acknowledging their needs just by walking through the door. That fact brings an amazing feeling of unity and also an inability to put on any air of pretense or having things all together. Just by being there, we are all saying that we DON'T have it all together and that we're pretty much a mess. And we need help. No one there is judge-y. People give a sympathetic smile and let you know you aren't alone. People own their "stuff" and don't attempt to be fake. I imagine we all spend enough time faking it in other settings and it feels good to be real for a bit.
Isn't that how church should be too? Aren't we there because we are acknowledging that we need Jesus? That we can't save ourselves? That we are all sinners and are a bit of a mess -- possibly even a huge mess! When people ask me, on Sunday morning, "How are you?", can I say that I had a shitty week? Would I get in "trouble" if I said shitty in church? A big part of me wants to be authentic, but instead, I almost always default to "Good. And you?" This is not completely false. I AM good. I am healthy. I have a wonderful family that I love (and who, if we're being honest, I want to murder at least once a day). I have food to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over my head. I have wonderful friends and a great community. But, also, life is hard! It isn't easy to convey all of this in church (or anywhere), so I default to "Fine." or "Good." But I wish church were more like the Fraser waiting room. Where we could drop the pretense and be more real and have it be ok to do so. Where other people would be that way too. That we all would. Where we could just sit (often completely wordless) with our crap. Where just by walking through the doors we would be admitting what a mess we are. I think Jesus would be in favor of that. My Jesus would, anyway!
*photo credit to my friend Margaret