Truth drops into our laps when we chit chat.
During one such light conversation, a business colleague mentioned her frustration in dealing with a quasi-non-profit organization — ostensibly out to help small businesses — that runs just like a government bureaucracy. Her numerous attempts to connect and join were impeded by the failure of the director to respond back.
“You know what it feels like, when you begin to suspect that you don’t matter?” she asked.
Oh, yes. Anybody who lives in the United States, or, since we’re globalized, a corporation-controlled environment that enforces excessive rules and regulations against individuals by harnessing the power of government, knows what it feels like to be ignored, overruled, not listened to, overlooked, quantified and qualified, and set into the back of a long queue.
Life, for normal people, consists of not mattering. So prevalent is this condition that we see it as normal, this hierarchy of humanity ranging from important and significant at the pinnacle of the pyramid, to a series of shoulders at the base to hold up the weight of it all. And though we grumble about it, though we don’t like the vague sensation that our lives, our loves, our hopes, our hurts are meaningless to those who impose their will to determine how we live, we give up and give into it.
“I must not matter because I don’t deserve to,” we tell ourselves, falling for the lie that those who rule — whether they’re our managers at work, “public” “servants,” political officials supposedly elected to do the will of the people (which people?), or titled members in the local church — do so because they are better, smarter, and more hardworking than we (and, in the case of the religious elite, more “faithful”).
Whether those who rule are maverick entrepreneurs whose bold climb to the financial top is lauded from magazine covers (and while the inside article gushes about the successful person’s “vision,” “authenticity,” “aggressive intelligence,” and “purposeful drive,” it rarely mentions small, but important matters like investment capitol from connections and family wealth), or whether those earthly kings are celebrity Christians who meet with presidents and popes, purporting to speak for all believers and Christ Himself, we are fools when we give them the keys to our hearts, convinced that they hold the keys to the kingdom, of man or God.
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you,” Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:18. “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.”
Belonging to the world involves following its rules, generally unwritten because those who write them secure an advantage by keeping the masses — you, me — struggling to understand and figure out the system. In the world, “networking” replaces friendship or family, “promoting one’s personal brand” is the substitute for loving one’s neighbor as oneself, working smarter and harder is the ultimate solution, as opposed to humbling ourselves before our Father and God, secure that He loves us and will guide our steps.
Anyone dumb enough to say that latter in a company party will be told that he’s lazy and unwilling to do the work necessary to succeed. Actually, anyone dumb enough to say that in a church setting will be told the same thing.
We Worship Efficiency
“The cravings of the sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work,” (Proverbs 21:25) is the rejoinder, or more likely, some other paraphrase, not always correct, that involves the book of Proverbs and the word, “sluggard.” Establishment church Christians have bought, joyfully, the party pack of religion and business which teaches that nothing come free, God expects us to work for what we get, and He rewards those who stay late, pray early, hustle at work, and bustle in the church. It is a sad thing for them that, “God helps those who help themselves,” is not an actual Bible verse.
But 1 Corinthians 1:26 is:
“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
It is a reminder to us that yes, by mankind’s standards, most human beings really don’t matter; my business friend trying to secure the attention of a socially and professionally inept bureaucratic director was correct in her assessment that to him, she doesn’t matter. In the same way, when we are chatting with someone in an after-church setting, especially if he is she is a Someone, who glances briefly over our shoulder in mid-conversation and abruptly cuts off the encounter to network with another, we have been summarily put in our place.
On one hand, it’s depressing, but on the other hand, it drives us to a better option: instead of securing the praises of men — which are shallow, fickle, and dependent upon factors that change with the whims of the elite who make them — we are safe in seeking what we’re looking for — acceptance, security, guidance, and the assurance that we matter — from God.
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” Jesus says in John 15:9. “Abide in my love.”
And from there, Christ did not instruct that we network, mentor, strategize, self-brand, promote, work as a team, communicate for mutual benefit, interact intentionally, or be proactive, but rather, that we love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).
Because the love of God — which we receive from Him and show to one another — is the only valid, tangible, “authentic,” and real evidence that we matter.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. I find it alarming that so many Christians think they can combine the concepts of the corporate business world with the teachings of God. But since that’s what they’re taught — at school, at work, on social media, in the movies, and at church — it’s no surprise.
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Thank you for this article. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been trying to find a church to go to for worship & praise of God and for fellowship with other Christians. I tried joining in a women’s group, hung around after services to try to meet people. I’ve told many who I encountered that I hadn’t been to church in years, had a recent renewal of my faith, was not naturally a joiner, but wanted to get started. Did anyone take me under their wing? NO. Of course there was the generic “act nice as a Christian should act”, the usual “Hello” greeting, then swiftly on their way to the “in-crowd” of the church. I even sent a message through Facebook telling them of such and I received the usual rhetoric about coming to Bible study or joining a group. I felt as though I had to do all the work to be a part of them because while the lips welcomed, the actions did not. And even after I called them out on it, they would not humble themselves into admitting where they went wrong made any attempt to change their actions. They just ignored, like they ignored my searching soul. I thank God that He does not ignore. I thank Him for always being by my side, guiding me. This will not deter my faith for I know they are only humans and like so many churches. It is disappointing however because I was looking for some new friends, but I really don’t need friends who make me do all the work to fit it. My God accepts me wholeheartedly and in Him I trust completely. God bless you Carolyn!
Kathleen: I see myself in your experience, I hear the cry of my heart in yours. Like you, I have been in those circulating, networking groups, and the thing that’s so funnily frustrating about it all is that we’re not really asking for that much: “Um, is there anybody here interested in human interaction? Room for friendship, talk, sharing of jokes, prayer for one another, anyone? Anyone?”
When you get away from it, when you are really and truly liberated from the hamster wheel of Christian church social networking and busyness, you close your eyes and think, “What was I trying so hard to get? Shallow relationships? False friendships? Warmth and caring from insecure people who are so busy climbing a ladder that they’ll kick the person’s face who is climbing right below them?”
You are right, churches are filled with ordinary people, subject to all the ordinary failings that we all do. But the system itself encourages us to keep at this bad behavior — it rewards those who claw and scrabble their way into the “in-crowd” — but the reward is a sad one: more insecurity, more pressure to keep doing what didn’t work the first time, in the hopes that maybe, eventually, it will.
Rest in the Father who loves you, my sister in Christ. The friends you find will come from the oddest places, and they never look like what we think they’re supposed to. But they are the humans God gently directs us into meeting, as if to say, “You two — you have something to say to one another. You will grow because of your relationship.”
Thank you for your good and encouraging words. Do you know, by the world’s standards, I’m a failure? I reach a few people, here and there and this and that, with this blog, but not enough to be important or significant. But my prayer after every single article (each of which I love, love, LOVE writing!) is this: “Let whoever needs to see this article, God, see it.” I am especially blessed when someone is kind enough to take time to write, as you did, and let me know a portion of their story, and how a portion of mine helped them on their walk. May God bless you richly, my friend.
Carolyn, How kind of you to reply to me and so quickly. You get it. Something this church certainly did not. I even wrote back to them that they missed my point perhaps by mistake or perhaps purposely. Told them that if they came to my house and knew no one there, I would take them into the fold and engage them. No response of course. What saddens me is that what if I were a person who did not have a strong faith to begin with? What if I were trying to find out, “What’s this God, Jesus, salvation thing all about?” I would leave thinking that’s what I get dealing with “Christians”. If I, as a Christian, left with a bad taste in my mouth, then I can only imagine what a non-believer or someone on the fence would think. Your articles do touch our lives and matter. I commend you deeply. You are a woman of God! And you are right because I have developed a very meaningful relationship with a man in Biafra through Facebook. He too is a man of God. Not a preacher, but a school teacher. The people there are dying for their Christian faith and yet he has taken the time and effort to listen to my particular issues I’m experiencing right now with lack of job, relationship with adult daughter, etc. and made them his own in supporting and guiding me through Christian fellowship. I feel closer to him than any of the “Church” people and I’ve never even met him in person. God does work wonderful miracles in our lives. I pray that He will continue to bring these kinds of people into mine. Certainly you are one of them. Thank you.
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16)
Increasingly, Kathleen, I see that the path of following Christ is outside of the wide, smooth highway norm, and those of us — you, me, many others — who have spent far too much time trying to fit in and wondering why we don’t, can relax in knowing that we’re not weird. The system is. It creates weak, disparate Christians who live from Sunday to Wednesday to Sunday, from Adult Bible Fellowship to mid-week small groups to morning worship service, and in doing so, feel that they are living an adequately full, rich life in Christ. (That’s how I used to convince myself that I felt, back when we were on the weekly religious circuit.)
I honestly don’t know how many non-believers come through doors of a church anymore, so cool is the reception, so expectant of conformation the atmosphere. I do think there are many conditioned church Christians who hop from place to place, looking for something they’re just not finding, and often, when they give up, they give up on God because they think that the church experience reflects Christianity.
But thankfully, God does not give up on people, and whatever our experience of frustration, irritation, hurt, boredom, or rejection, He uses it to give us wisdom so that we can bear fruit — reaching out to others, listening, praying, commiserating, being able to say, “I get that! Yes, yes, yes, I get that!”
Your path sounds like it is taking you interesting places, and already you are meeting people you didn’t imagine would be there on this journey. I am honored and grateful that we are meeting on our paths, and that we are able to encourage one another.
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