This doesn’t happen often. But when it does, I notice it big time.
I’m sitting in bible study—this was years ago, mind you—and a person shares with the group:
“My biggest sin is pride.”
And I’m like, really?
Make no mistake, pride is destructive. Just read King Lear.
But there is this feeling I get when someone’s problems sound less of a big deal than…cough, cough…my own.
It’s the same feeling my friend felt when he attended Sunday School growing up. Everyone there griped about ACT scores and soccer tryouts. Meanwhile his closest friends in high school struggled with addiction. Some were even being arrested.
“These kids at Sunday School complain about honor roll and I’m like, really?” my friend said.
I never had that specific experience. But I know what it’s like to feel unwilling to share my struggles with a person because they won’t understand. They wouldn’t understand. How could they?
When I meet someone who tackled or still tackles the same obstacles that I do, I get super excited. When they’re more sheltered than me (if that’s possible), then I feel like they can’t relate to me.
Conversely, when I meet a person who’s gone through hell, I shrink into my shell because my problems feel so trivial.
I know. There’s something wrong with how I think.
Because the truth is, people are more than their experiences. I am more than a graduate of UEA. I’m more than a publicist. I am not the sum of my past.
But I am a Christian. I strive to obey what the Bible teaches about living a holy life. That’s the heart of who I am. And in church, that should be the level that we relate on.
We should connect with each other because—not only do we all sin—but we all look to the same Person for restoration: Jesus.
I keep viewing church as a place to find relatable people. I really shouldn’t. Because although that might happen, that’s not what church is for. One of my favorite podcasters Summer White Jaeger writes:
“The church is not a safe space. You will find healing and you will find fellowship, but it is going to be among other soldiers who are also fighting the good fight and showing up week after week badly bruised and broken and scarred by their remaining sin. You will find peace and joy everlasting, but the church does not exist to give you that.”*
When I close myself off to people because their ‘level of struggles’ doesn’t match mine, I create barriers.
Church should be a place where relationships transcend differences.
Middle-aged mothers can minister to twentysomething women. Pastors can lead a congregation of people from different backgrounds.
If church is a hospital, then we might all be wounded in different ways. But we don’t relate over our type of wounds—our certain sins, our problems, our struggles. We relate over our choice of medicine. Our choice of a Savior.
A Christian who struggles with sexual sin and a Christian who struggles with talking back to their parents shouldn’t be compared. They both struggle with sin.
Differently broken but equally in need of Jesus.
*Summer White Jaeger, “Almost: an addendum since releasing this episode”, Sheologians.com.