Sometimes, the internet feels like a house of horrors. Like the place I know better to avoid, but I move my feet forward anyway. I don’t know why. The thrill perhaps. And because I want to be braver and give the bullies a bit of their own medicine. I want to throw down as many hits as I can.
Then vwalla! An hour passes, just like that, and I am exhausted and I am enraged and in my head, there is this scrolling feed of tweets, of heavy-handed and bold and italicized comments, and it is all I can see, all I can hear, and I beat myself up for it, because I know better than this. I know who I am- why do I suddenly feel less than? Other? Kept Out?
I walked into church last night a bit banged up by twitter, and these past weeks, and really, I might’ve stayed put at Caribou, duking it out in the latest round of Am I Christian Enough?, had it not been for my brother preaching that night. It was his fourth sermon of the weekend and he had poured his whole heart into his message. Issues of social justice, they vibrate in his bones, and even though he played it cool and was self-deprecating, I know him better. This is a message nailed into his heart: Jesus. God. The Poor. Justice. Love. Mercy. This is what gets him up there.
I sat in the parent-child room with my sister-in-law, Lauren, as baby Wyatt slept in his car-seat beneath a blanket. Matt came in during the preliminary praise and worship and sat on the couch, calm. Lauren looked at him, “Should we pray?” and he nodded and then we did. It was a small, private moment, and I felt the weight of the spirit on us. In their marriage, in our family, in snoring baby Wyatt. I braced for the coming message he’s been carrying.
I would have heard more of what he had to say had I not been so crazy entertained over Wyatt’s antics. He woke up ten minutes in. He was crying one moment, laughing the next, doing the sign language he’s just learned. More! More! He said with his hands and Lauren tried to feed him, but he’s just turned eleven months, and thus, very picky. Lauren and I pointed at the glass, there’s daddy! And he began pounding so hard against it we worried the whole church would turn around. My sister Molly ran over and flirted with him through the glass, like he was an inmate. It was great.
At the close of the service came communion, and for this time, the band plays. I swear on my life, Wyatt sung along. He is just a baby, but his babble rose into a high note, the most earnest tone in the world. Just for a fleeting few seconds and then done. I felt a flutter in my chest.
At the back of the church, I stood and checked my twitter compulsively, my mentions, my feed, feeling the weight of my salvation hanging on the edge of some conservative writer, but then my phone died. The tether broke. I drifted away. And all I could really do was look up at the screen. Sing along to these words:
Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.
And then this:
His love is deep, His love is wide
And it covers us
His love is fierce, His love is strong
It is furious
His love is sweet, His love is wild
And its waking hearts to life
It is classic evangelicalism. Songs I grew up singing. I should be cringing and running, but my mind, my heart, threw up hands in protest: Hear this.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. – Isaiah 43:1-2
Here is the Truth: They are powerless in separating us from his deep and furious and wild, head-over-heels, never-leave-nor-forsake-you, take-heart, I-am-with-you sort of love.
The spirit came before them, before us, before evangelicalism, before the church, before the earth even dropped into orbit. So no, they cannot duct tape a line. Jesus is not a trophy they can keep on their side of the world, behind the gates lined with their tweets and comments and mob intimidation. Sin is not some stamp they can print on every one else. Sure- they can jeer us away, but only if we let them. They can tweet out barks of Hell, proof-text ’til the sun goes down, but by the end of the service, I am feeling it. My worth and my hope and my belovedness circling around me like a halo. Pointing to the ground, this ground beneath my feet. I whisper: This. Is. Church.
I can see it in my nephew sleeping with hymnals in his ears and two parents raising him to be a peacemaker. I can feel it in the two pastors who come alongside me after the service and talk through everything with me- World Vision, Mean Christians, and the Jesus leaning in against the Church, smiling over at me. One of them tells me I need to plant myself, daily, in the love of God. And it’s a call I’ve felt linger over me for days.
Pope Francis said the internet is a gift from God and though there is so so so much shit rising up in a haze over that realm- a church is being built there too. When I was hit hard, a blogger friend stood up for me. I messaged him, “thank you and I look up to you” and he messaged back, “you’re my family” and then, tears. Voxer has become a window for me and a couple other friends, ones with big hearts who leave me prayers like notes on the sill.
When I drive home, I am still singing those hymns. I am feeling myself planted firm in Christ and him Crucified. The radio is off and I am praying aloud thanksgiving. I am laying hands over all the things said and all the passion burning in their words and saying: He Paid It All. I am singing, out on the freeway, heart no longer afraid: His love is Deep. His love is Wild. And it Covers Us.