It’s Easter. Or Resurrection Sunday. Or whatever one prefers to call it.
I should be happy, joyful, remembering that Jesus is alive, and all He did for me. I should feel more than I do on a day like this. Instead, I feel dead inside. I’m struggling. Wondering some moments how I can keep on going. Wondering what’s so wrong with me and will things ever get better. Wondering why church feels as dead as I feel inside.
I went to three services today. I went to an outdoor sunrise service first thing this morning with a friend of mine. It was a bit chilly, but the wooded scenery was nice and the service was sweet and short. I couldn’t really get into the spirit of things, however, or pay too much attention to the sermon, because a little field mouse decided to show up and distract those of us sitting near its little hideaway in a crevice of the rock bench in front of us. He was a cute little thing, and kept poking his head and beady eyes out of the crevice to look at us. He apparently wanted to get out, but we kept scaring him back in, till, at last, near the end of the service, he got bold enough to make a mad dash for it. He scampered across the ground toward our rock bench, where apparently he found another crevice to hide in. But what a commotion and distraction he caused. It was kind of funny, actually. Those of us who enjoyed his antics affectionately labeled him our “church mouse.”
After the sunrise service, and a yummy breakfast served at the church, I joined my friend for the regular early-morning service, and while it was nice, it just felt like the same ho-hum routine church service. It just felt like all of us were going through the motions, and I admittedly nearly dozed off a couple times. After it was over, it was still fairly early in the morning, so on the spur of the moment, as I drove toward home, I decided, after phoning my sister, to join her at her church service. This service, at a Presbyterian church, felt “deader” than the Baptist one I went to earlier. I looked around me at the well-dressed congregation, and I realized that there was a time I would have felt somewhat at home there (I used to attend this church many years ago), but no longer. I suddenly missed the little Spanish church, with its poorer folk, and its livelier music and sermons. I felt as if I were attending a funeral at the Presbyterian church. Oh the songs were good–good, solid hymns, most of them–and the sermon was good and doctrinally sound. But there was no life there. And I felt lifeless sitting there.
Maybe that’s what’s missing in most churches these days. Maybe that’s what’s missing in me. Life. On a day like today, I should be filled to overflowing with life, remembering the One Who gives me eternal Life. But instead I feel numb and dead. And nearly every church I walk into feels numb and dead as well. As much as I hate to say it, and as much as many Christians here in the US like to “complain” about it, I think a good dose of persecution would be a good thing for the American church. Persecution would awaken us out of our slumber and awaken my own dead, cold heart. Sometimes (ok, often) I wish I’d been born in a different country, where life is harder, and where persecution is normal. I envy Christians in Africa, China, Indonesia, and other parts of the world who truly understand what it means to follow Christ, because of the suffering they endure. I don’t envy their suffering, of course, but I envy the joy and abundant life they seem to possess, even in the midst of their sufferings.
My own life has been full of suffering, though of a different sort, and while there are days when my pain seems too much to bear, and I don’t know how I can go on, at other times I am grateful for it, because without it I think I would survey life on a more superficial level. There’s something about being stripped of everything you hold dear that really “wakes” you up, as it were. You realize money isn’t important, looks aren’t important, intelligence isn’t all that important, possessions don’t matter…nothing matters but your very soul, and it stands naked, like every other soul in the world, before a holy, loving, and righteous God, Who could snuff it out in an instant if He chose to. Before Him we are all equals, and before the Cross we are all equals.
So how is it, on a day like today, that symbolizes life–Real Life–that I feel so lifeless, and the Christianity I see around me appears lifeless as well? Jesus has to be more real than a Sunday school lesson or a dry, doctrinally sound sermon. If He is truly alive, then I should feel alive as well. I’m sick of religion. I’m sick of lifeless, mediocre Christianity. I’m sick of my own lifeless heart. I’m sick of being sick.
I watched part of The Gospel of John movie the other day–the last part, which portrays the Last Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection–and it made me cry. It made me wish I had been there, over two thousand years ago. It made me want to see Him, face to face. And it made me more aware of the contradictions and hypocrisy in my own life. Because, if I truly believe Jesus is as alive now as He was then, and that He’s with me, then why don’t I live as if He is? Why don’t most Christians? We profess one thing with our lips, and yet live as if we have no idea what we’re talking about.
He’s alive. As much now as He was then. So why am I so dead inside? And why is the church so dead?
I’m just rambling. But I’m simply fed up. Fed up with myself and the church.
On a day that symbolizes Life, that’s what I find lacking and want so much. I just want Life. Abundant Life, as Jesus promised.