by Dieter Randolph, Lead Pastor
A lot of people spend a lot of time, not fitting in. They don't fit in at work. They don't fit in with their families. They don't fit in with their significant others.
Sometimes they go from place to place, not fitting in. New job, same disappointments. New relationship, same fights. Sometimes they give up. They decide that frustration and isolation are facts of life.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you have a job that makes you feel like a loser, a relationship you can't relate to, if you feel like you don't fit, I want you to know two things:
You are not alone
You have a choice
Let's think this through. Picture your irritating situation for a minute. Chances are, it's hard to stop thinking about it. But where is the irritation?
Somewhere, somehow, there's somebody in the world who would be thrilled to do that job you hate. Somewhere, somehow, there's somebody who would love to be in the relationship you're trying to get out of. Maybe you're in their way. We'll talk about that some other time.
Here's the thing right now: If somebody else would be happy doing it, the activity isn't the issue. The problem is not the situation. And it's also not you. You get to feel the way that you feel.
The problem is not you, and it's not the person, place, or thing. Instead, the problem, and the irritation it creates, comes from somewhere else. Here it is: Either you are not supposed to be there and you're forcing it, or you're really supposed to be there on a profound level and something is keeping you from engaging.
In other words, the problem has to do with a disconnection, a deception. The problem is the little fibs we tell ourselves to keep slogging along. Can you think of a few? How do they make you feel?
Turns out, you are allergic to lies. When a situation, a vocation, a conversation makes you feel gross, you are having an allergic reaction.
The cure seems simple enough. I bet you know what it is. But that's not especially marketable. Instead, leaders and institutions across the spectrum of human experience have been selling us placebos. When we feel "the lie" bubble up, we're taught to stuff it back down.
On the secular side of things, we are told to hide the lie under more obligations and non-identities. We're instructed to equate a full to-do list with a full life, even though everybody knows they're not the same thing at all. We are given a never-ending stream of products and self-help scenarios that emphasize our inherent wrongness and dependency on whatever's on sale this week. And, like every other addiction cycle, there's always something new on the horizon. This time, it'll be different.
The spiritual end of the spectrum has told us that our frustration isn't important. Our feelings and our relationship with our lives don't really matter if the whole point is escape. We're supposed to keep our heads down, do what we're told, and pack our spiritual bags for an eventual trip to Heaven, or Nirvana, or Burbank. We're told to squash any negative thoughts. But it's hard to make a difference where we are if all we want to do is get away. That kind of thinking makes people put up with suffering. It leads to anger and exclusion. It doesn't feel right.
Neither response is especially helpful. They are both ways to add to the lie instead of finding something true. Just like the plot of every good romcom, what they really need is each other. We have to engage with our lives. We have to show up and get things done. But we also have to believe in something bigger than we are.
Let's be clear here: I'm not asking you for a leap of faith. I'm certainly not asking you to believe in some big, bearded, absentee landlord in the sky who may or may not like you very much. I don't believe in that, either. But let me ask you this: Do you love your kids? Have you ever been moved to tears by something beautiful or true? Does your favorite song make you get up and dance? If so, you know what faith feels like, and you already have all you need.
As it happens, the best parts of you (and me, and everybody else) are things that can't be measured with atoms and equations. The most honest, real, and valuable things about existence can't be quantified. They can only be felt. That's where the truth lives. Bringing that timeless truth to bear on the varied facts of life is the key to everything.
A lot of churches measure success by the square footage of the building and the size of the membership list. It's strange that a spiritual community would use the same metric as a fast food restaurant. Billions and billions served doesn't guarantee a decent meal, much less a change of heart. You can't put numbers around this kind of thing.
A lot of churches pride themselves on an interchangeable experience. The idea seems to be that you could pick up the building and move it to the other side of the country and not much would change. The people inside don't change much, either. Week to week and place to place, things tend to stay the same. We've got a lot to do. Let's stop marking time and start making a mark.
If the problem is the lie we're all allergic to, the solution is the truth. Beauty and meaning aren't what you get, they're what you bring. The truth about you is already beautiful and meaningful. Do you want to make things better, get free, start a revolution? Easy. Just show up for your life. Jump in with both feet, head and heart, truth and facts, water and stone, and things will be okay.
You don't need me, or anybody, to tell you that you're on the right track. That's what your heart is for. Church shouldn't be about hoops you jump through in order to be in the club. It shouldn't be about complicated techniques and trade secrets. God is good. You are good. Go do some good. What more do you need?
If we are here for a reason, and that reason has to do with radical love and outrageous mercy, church needs to be less interested in getting people to come in, and more interested in going out into the world. Many churches spend time trying to spice things up in order to get more people in the door. But that's fast food thinking. A message of fear and exclusion is still limiting, even if it's delivered by a guy in artfully ripped jeans and backed by electric guitars. Maybe it's less about the packaging, and more about the message.
We are called upon to make a difference in the world, right here and now. We want to be so excited about what's inside us that we can't shut up about it, so on fire that we can't sit still. Maybe church should feel less like a fortress, where the goal is protection from the world. Maybe church should feel more like an airplane full of skydivers, getting ready to jump. We are here to support each other, to see and bring out the best in one another, and to get ready to go out and help people.
This isn't about an ending. It's about making a start. You have everything necessary to take that first step.
All you need is courage. Maybe you've been discouraged from asking the right questions. Maybe you didn't know what to ask. That all ends now.
We are working to build a community of people dedicated to making a difference right where we are. Our goal is an experience that is profoundly connected to the neighborhood, one that measures success by lives changed. We'd love you to be there with us.