I tucked two hands behind my head and lay in the grass of my backyard yesterday afternoon while the boys rested. I bent my knees and closed my eyes as the summer sun poured heat like water. Craving stillness, but living distracted, my prayers came out like one word whispers: help, grace, more, less, thanks.
I tried to return to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. It’s the one that even my toes know by heart. Maybe it was the heat or my frazzled brain, but I couldn’t get past the first verse, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. The rest of what I could remember was fragmented and disjointed. The whole of it escaped me. A simple prayer that I’ve known since I was a child, I couldn’t remember it.
I know a lot of people are tired of the Church these days. Many have been hurt and disappointed, have become cynical and offended. I have been there too. Because it is one thing to be hurt by people being human, and it is another to be hurt by people claiming to speak for God. Yes, we believers have much for which to apologize. We have been defensive and self-righteous. We have used tactics like fear and guilt to lure others to our own agendas. We have spoken when we should have listened. We have been silent when we should have been shouting. The truth is, this bride of God will never wear white on her own.
But there are many reasons why I will never stop loving this fumbling bride. There are many reasons why despite the ragged, rough dress that she sometimes wears, I will always be hers. And those reasons do not include having a heart full of grace or a spirit of incredible understanding. They do not include a strong belief or a steady loyalty. No, I have none of those things.
What I do have is a mind that sometimes forgets the words to a prayer I’ve grown up reciting. What I do have is a spirit that sometimes can’t muster up the will to say what I know to be true.
And this is just one reason why I skip and crawl my way back to the sanctuary time after time. Because when I stand among a crowd of ragamuffin people like myself, reciting the prayer that God taught us to pray, I always know the words. I never forget them. My small voice easily falls in step with the group unlike when I am alone. And even when my spirit blocks my mouth from saying the creeds or when I just have to opt out of singing the hymns … in church, my gloriously clumsy family says and sings them for me.
No, God’s bride is not perfect. But on a day in the sun when words I know are out of reach, I want my imperfect church. I want to stand among believers and doubters, sinners and saints with eyes closed and heads bowed to say it together, For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.