For more than 15 years, I didn't go to church (except for lots of visits in my professional capacity). When I was in my early 20s, the Episcopal church I attended regularly split. Factions formed, sides were taken, harsh words were spoken. A spiritual tug of war ensued and left the community in tatters. It was awful, traumatic -- the worst that church has to offer.
I love Jesus and all that he told us to do and be while he walked among us in the flesh. But I no longer trusted his followers to not behave appallingly. I'd had enough of Christians shooting their own. So I left.
In hindsight, that was pretty shortsighted. We are believers, but we are also human. We stumble, fall, and drag others down with us. We wallow in our own hypocrisy and look to fellow Christians rather than the One we should emulate as the only perfect example of how to be fully human and completely faithful.
After more than a decade of lurking in the narthex, a couple of years ago I tiptoed into the sanctuary of a small Episcopal parish in suburban Chicago and found safe harbor. I was surprised to learn that this parish had suffered a split several years earlier, too. But what remained were not sharp edges and bitterness from the acrimony that had shattered the community like a cheap mirror. Instead, I found the light of God's love refracted even more beautifully by the cracks and imperfections.
Last summer, my family relocated from Chicago to Southern California and had to leave our beloved church behind. But we found a more perfectly imperfect spiritual home here in Laguna Beach -- a faith community called Little Church by the Sea. Whatever its quaint moniker conjures in your mind -- a certain sweetness and humility; a groovy, laid-back, welcoming place where the pastors wear flip-flops and the worship team is a bluegrass band -- is right on.