My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
<-- James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota
Let me start by sharing I attend a good church that I really like. It is a mix of all ages, from college students through senior citizens. The preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and at times entertaining. The worship is performed by talented musicians and the words and atmosphere are both.. worshipful. There are 3 big screens up front to assist in this modern presentation of church. Our motto is no perfect people allowed. It is a welcoming church where you are greeted at the door, there is care for the little ones, and classes for all the kids through teens. Ways to connect and become involved and a place to ask for prayer are presented each week. My church is attractive, welcoming, and like I said, I really like my church.
Then on Monday's recently I started attending a Celebrate Recovery program at a different local church (my church does not offer one). I am over 4 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink had compromised my life for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin it, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife.
So anyways, I never really attended treatment when I quit, but now 4 years later found myself in a Celebrate Recovery program which my wife attends with me. She does not have a problem with alcohol but supports me and encouraged me to attend for my own well being and to give back and support others in this struggle.
Well, in contrast to my good church where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy. These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess.. such a beautiful mess.
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a higher power but the only true God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Now after 4+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was and am still recovering from. I went bankrupt, had to sell my home and my business and start over. I was wounded deeply and felt a void of what do I replace the buzz of alcohol with. I was a Christian through all this, I prayed & read my Bible, but was still a mess. Maybe God saw me as a beautiful mess.. I think my wife saw me that way. I was a mess but oh how important I was to her and how much she believed in me and loved me.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church look like any mess, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted today.. and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will fit in as I am a mess.. together we are a beautiful mess that God is in the process of restoring. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable, and I don't want to be the guy who stays home on Monday nights instead of attending Celebrate Recovery group with my beautiful mess.
I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you, and use you to serve Him in this world that is a mess. I pray for revival and restoration in America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess that we are a part of.
Jeff (what a mess) Larson
note: One person commented last night.. If the church was honest, the seats in Celebrate Recovery would be full. It is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore the mess in our lives.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson