We carry our heavy silence from last night's fight after the kids were tucked into bed. We carry the bladed words ripping through the one we swore to love and cherish. We carry the silence of a marriage in its death throes.
We carry such things to church.
We carry our buried desire for someone, anyone, to take notice of us, talk to us, show us that we’re not just useless human failures, that our existence does matter, that we mean something to someone.
We carry our second wedding ring—or, if you're like me, third—and along with that golden band, rusted memories of ex-loves and stubborn hopes of ''this time, yes, by God, this time it will last.''
We carry that picture in our wallet of the daughter we haven't spoken to in three years, four months, and two days, the one who has aborted us from her life, but whose presence is still as near as the hot tears that rolled down our face on her 25th birthday last week.
We carry our disappointment with God, with his brutal deafness to our fervent prayers, his wanton stripping away of what once made us giddy with happiness, his frigid silence when we scream for help.
We carry all these things, and much more.
We carry them in silence, often wrapped behind the mantle of a smile.
We carry them to church.
And there, standing within the walls of his Father’s house, is our brother. He carries in his scarred body a heart that beats only to the rhythm of love for us. He carries a word on his lips that bears within itself all the power of heaven to heal our deepest wounds. He carries on his shoulders a cross whose wood is stained with the blood of a God who hurled everything wrong in our universe into the black hole of his own cursed death.
This brother, Jesus of Nazareth, is Jesus of the dying marriage, Jesus of the lonely victim, Jesus of the divorced, Jesus of the weeping parent, Jesus of the embittered worshiper who strikes out like a wounded child with words that damn his Father above. He is Jesus of sinners. He is Jesus of the soiled, of the shamed, of those who are sickened by what they see in the mirror.
He is embarrassed by none of them. They are welcome in his church. Only they will feel at home in his Father’s house anyway. This is not a place for those who have no problems, never do wrong, and imagine heaven is constantly clapping over their stellar life performance. Such golden people needn’t go slumming in God’s house.
Church is for the lost and losers, the hurting and bleeding, the walking or crawling or carried-on-a-stretcher wounded. The church is not a mirror-covered Gold’s gym to flex our spiritual pecs but a temple where the defiled are cleansed and made holy. The church is where poor, stinking fools are bathed and robed as sons and daughters of the King.
The things we carry to church—these burdens our Brother removes. He stacks them atop his own broad shoulders. “I’ll carry them now,” he says. “I’ve got this. If I carried all the vast wrongs of the world to the cross then surely I can bear whatever pains you. Come to me, all you who are weary of being you, and simply be mine. My child. My beloved. I will bear your burdens from now on. And I’ll bear you. Stop trying to be your own lousy excuse for a god and I’ll be the only God you need. I’ll pick you up and we’ll walk together into the future. Be it dark or light or a shadowed existence raging with uncertainty—it doesn’t matter. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I am the resurrection and the life. I am your resurrection and life."
The things we carry to church are nothing compared to the one who bears them for us from the church, into tomorrow, and into the unending days when we are finally Home with our Father above.