“when Jesus said he would build his church, he never meant to establish a sacred building, a moral organization or a schedule of weekly activities. two thousand years later, when we think about ‘church,’ we tend to think of buildings, programs and gatherings. while all of those things are good, they don’t ultimately fulfill the mission and mandate of Jesus on their own. the church was meant to be a group of ordinary people, empowered by God’s Spirit, making disciples together wherever they went. programs don’t disciple people. people disciple people. while programs can be the environments, the connections and the glue that facilitate those relationships, we have to be intentional that we are becoming disciples and making disciples and not simply staying busy with good moralistic activities. we don’t need time-sucking meetings but life-changing relationships.” - heather zemple from my niv bible for women
i wondered if this is why when i have gone to church i have found more of my time wasted than life-changing relationships. but when we would travel for meetings with new couples and we’d get to discuss marriage and how it works and how God designed it, we would all have tears and feel so empowered and fulfilled because the presence of God was with us. and christian friends seem to only want to get together for surface level things but we can’t confess sins or talk truth with one another about how we’re doing, really. what our struggles are and how marriage is hard. or call each other out without breaking up the friendship and being oh-so offended. we end up feeling so drained and exhausted with christian friends but when conversing with non-christian friends or really alive christians we could be dead tired but stay up for three more hours because it is so necessary and life-giving.
these programs hurt us. i believe. maybe they can be good, and maybe if you can get them young and truly be intentional there is good there, i know there is but overall i think it damages. programs train christians that inviting several people over for a volleyball game is enough. or making appearances at potlucks is enough. but we’re not trained in our bible and we’re not trained in communication so we have no idea how to actually go out into the world and talk to people who have real problems and real questions. and we don't even know how to handle our own. because Scripture is still a mystery to us. but we sure know how to throw together a gathering. bring a friend.
everything changed for me when i met ethan burt. and he was a huge sinner.
he questioned God. he was fearless and unashamed with his questions and his doubts.
he was an atheist for years. tried buddhism. hated God.
and i was falling in love with him the very moment i saw his eyes.
that’s obviously a big no-no for this church girl.
God used me to bring ethan to Himself. this was my first experience with God using humans to connect humans to him. thankfully God used me despite myself because at first i just thought i needed to get him to go to my church. which is hilarious and did not work in the least. i also tried to make ethan up to be something he wasn’t so he would be more impressive to my people at the time. which also did not work. but when we were alone, driving to class together for two straight weeks, God was using me and my simpleness to break ethan’s walls down and let him see clearly for the first time ever. God is so sweet.
i would not recommend two people who are not equally yoked to try and make a relationship work. but God made this work for us because he has a great purpose for it. the day i met him i knew he would be my husband. it was like it wasn’t even a question. i had no control over it and i was just lucky that he was also very good looking. i knew it was absolutely stupid and crazy. and unlike anything i’d ever planned for myself. it was a cold monday in november and the moon was full of beauty against the black sky when i returned to my car that evening, i looked up in the sky and told God i knew. thank you. how in the world are you going to work this mess out? but OK. i’m in. he’s so cute. and intense. and he needs you. and i think i need him for something i can’t see right now. and i'm scared. six-ish messy months later there was a wedding ceremony with confused family and a little amount of good friends. and probably a lot of prayer. but we knew. and that was all that mattered to us.
i recently read this and it was just scandalous enough for me to dog ear it and come back to it every morning :
“he breaks all social etiquette in relating to people. he acknowledges no barriers or human divisions. there is no category of sinners he isolates himself from. simply stated, Jesus is a miserable failure at meeting religious people’s expectations of him. he connects with the kinds of people he should disregard. he attended the wrong dinner parties. he is rude to respected religious leaders and polite to whores. he reprimands his own followers and praises outsiders and riffraff.” - fil anderson in breaking the rules
“he wasn’t working to maintain a good reputation. he was walking in dependence on his Father. Jesus didn’t value what people thought; he valued people, period.”
ethan was the start of my reputation falling. probably, it could have started sooner but as far as i knew, it was then. and sometimes i fought to keep my reputation intact. sometimes i still do. it has been more important to me that my reputation is spotless in the eyes of man than to please my Father. but here goes. i can see my reputation flying out the window.
the heaviest thing on my heart lately has been how much people need to be SEEN.
and i just want to see them. i watch the way others view the people around them and i just want to follow that up with, i see you. it’s OK. you are loved. i'm sorry. because people who “have Jesus” have too much personal judgement and opinion. and God created that person, too. and i just want to love them.
ethan has taught me so much by being so very different than me. i grew up in all the safe places with all the same people and the same weather conversations and the question of how was the church attendance today conversations. but he grew up mourning. and finding drugs at the tiniest age of nine. and he grew up wanting to die. and hating God. other’s had the opinion of him that he was the lowest of the pile. just the worst. rebel. disrespectful.
but i saw hurt. abandoned. depressed. lonely.
one sunny afternoon we were helping someone move and ethan was quoting romans 12 but he didn’t know it. and i probably honestly only knew the romans 12 words because i had to memorize them on a wilderness trip the summer before meeting him. and he was using words from it. i thought, how did you know those words? and he told me they were just on his heart.
my heart leaped. he had God in there all along but didn’t know it. that longing. it can only be filled by him. ethan has been everything i needed. he has helped me to see humanness and that deep, intense relationship with Jesus is what it’s all about. i had church my whole life but i didn’t have intimacy with my savior. now ethan is fearless and unashamed of his love for Jesus. he is unapologetic. he literally has never cared about reputation. i envy that. i still struggle with wanting to share my list of church-y accomplishments with the people so they will be impressed with me. but those things literally mean nothing. ethan’s way is better. mine shows selfishness and self-preservation. and lack of trust.
ethan is like Jesus. he has a horrible reputation and connects with the people that most would disregard. he is not scared of anything dangerous. he knows safety isn’t his. religious leaders dislike him and he cries for women who use their bodies to find love. he is such a great example of Jesus to me and to all the people we meet. i am beyond weepy about being his wife. he is such a beautiful picture of Jesus’s characteristics. i read once that marriage is a perfect opportunity to BE Jesus to each other. and he certainly teaches that. when we have the Holy Spirit inside us we can be like Jesus. very like him. his ways, his mission, his heart, his hands and feet. it’s funny how God used me to draw ethan to himself, but now he’s used ethan to draw me to himself. it’s such a beautiful story. the most romantic one of all. more than our personal love burt living story, our romance story of God bringing us to himself through his image bearers. that’s love intensely.