Dear American Church,
I love you. You are the Church that birthed me, the Church that raised me, the Church that sent me out — and I will always be grateful for you. I will always love you.
But, dear American Church, can you not see? The walking wounded are among you, and you seem blind to their pain. Have you no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no heart to care?
There are people among you who long to be listened to, who long to be cared for. Who better to care, than the Body of Christ? And who better to walk alongside, than the people of God?
But from my vantage point, American Church, you’re not paying any attention.
In all my stateside travels, the one constant has been people who want to tell their stories. Perhaps they’ve lived overseas for a time or moved here from abroad. Perhaps they stayed in America and simply accumulated some pain along the way.
These people, they’re hurting, and they don’t have anyone to tell their stories to. No one seems to be listening. For who could possibly be interested in anything besides American sports and American vacations and the relentless keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-American-rat-race life??
Everywhere I go in America, I talk to people who’ve had life-changing experiences, who are lonely and hurting. When I sit down with them, their stories start flowing. When I ask them if they have anyone else to tell their stories to, they answer, “No.”
Won’t anyone listen to them?? Won’t anyone be a safe place for them to land??
Dear American church, people want to tell you their stories. They want to be heard. They want to be known. From the immigrant to the missionary, from the layperson to the local minister, these travelers are hungry for people who care.
Dear American Church, don’t you remember that we bear God’s image? And as image-bearers, don’t you know that God calls us to imitate Him in His question to Hagar: “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”?
Dear American Church, you know you don’t have to fix people’s problems, right?? All you have to do is open up your heart and show that you care. All you have to do is sit in silence and listen. All you have to do is offer up the occasional hug and prayer.
All you have to do is let their hurt, hurt you.
Dear American Church, let me tell you something. The wounded? They’re closer to heaven than you are. They’ve seen brokenness. They’ve watched the world break people. They’ve watched the world break them. And they are closer to the Kingdom because of it.
Blessed are those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. These words come straight from the mouth of Jesus. The Kingdom is at hand, He tells us; it’s near the brokenhearted. And when we draw near the brokenhearted, we draw near the Kingdom, too.
Blessed are the pure in heart, says our Christ, for they will see God. Blessed are the ones whose hearts are honest in all things, whose hearts know their wounds and know their own deceit. They are closer to heaven than we are. They are the ones who will see God, who will experience Him.
The lonely and the hurting, they know what heaven is, because they know what heaven isn’t — it’s everything they’re not living. They know they need care and companionship, redemption and restoration. In their weakness and in their longing, they are that much closer to heaven, that much closer to the heart of our Savior for this broken world.
Dear American Church, stretch out your hand to them, and take one step closer to the rule of Christ. Touch their pain, and walk arm and arm into the Kingdom with them. Share in their sorrows, and taste of heaven.
Ask questions and listen to their answers. Cry with them, grieve with them, long with them. All they need is you, dear American Church, open-handed and open-hearted.
Dear American Church, I beg of you to do this with me. I cannot bear this burden alone. And neither can I bear the thought of losing my faith in you. So won’t you enter the Kingdom with me? Won’t you take a look at suffering, and see God with me?
Let us enter into the Kingdom hand in hand with the hurting. They will lead us. They will guide us. The poor in spirit and the pure in heart, the ones who are honest, the ones who are needy, let them take us by the hand and lead us into the Kingdom.
I’m willing. Are you?
Other posts in The Church series:
On Not Being the Casserole Lady