They say God is in church today, but where is he? Where is the God who is supposedly everywhere?
Where is God when prayers fall on deaf ears? Where is God when a wife and her child are abandoned by her husband? Where is he when a devotee is dying and a believer is being persecuted for his faith? Where is he when we need him most?
If he is there, then where?
Is he in the routine smile of an usher who loosely shakes your hand? Is he in the church worship team who performs to great fanfare? Is he in the lyrics of a song, the message of a sermon, or the communion elements we partake?
And if the gathering of saints in church moves the heart of God, then where is the part where this divine effect also moves the heart of man?
For isn't it undeniable that many come to church to seek many goals that have little, if not, nothing to do with personal redemption?
Some come to seek attention, to bedazzle with their gift. Some come to seek relief from guilt so that they may return to their old man for the rest of the week. Some even come to reinforce and reaffirm their own righteousness to give the impression that they are above the rest.
Still others come for the social mass effect to gossip, spread discord and entrench toxic views and position. And lastly, there is one group that comes with no agenda, no string attached, no commitment.
In other words, they are the inertia within the inertia. They are like the dry paint in the church; clearly visible but seldom moved.
Truly, the church is a complicated place, where the weekly convergence of saints requires the surrender of one's will for a transformation of one's life. But most times, it is the resistance of one's will against the gentle invitation towards enduring change.
Where then is God in all this?
Where is he when pride, self-righteousness, envy and lust corrupt the heart and rob the redemptive path of a fallen soul? Where is God when hypocrisy reigns and faithlessness persists?
Are there more prodigal sons in church still demanding their inheritance in advance so that they may live their life on their own terms?
Or, are there many others in church who follow the path of the elder brother who live seemingly impeccable lives and are intolerant of the sins in others but blindsided by the sins in themselves?
Alas, if this is what one can generally expect in a church, then I think I am home. I think I fit in, snugly.
This is a place I can truly identify with. I am therefore with people I can relate to. For I have embodied all that I have written about, if not more (or worse).
I get lost in my pride, misled by my greed, derailed by my hypocrisy and am indulgent in my own comfort zone.
I have taken the same route the prodigal son had taken and wandered even further into the thorny path of envy and self-righteousness that the elder son had ever wandered.
It is therefore comforting to know that I am at home in church where I am not expected to be hung up as perfect museum pieces for others to marvel at and bid for only to find on closer scrutiny how imperfect I am.
But on the contrary, in a church, I am with broken people, sometimes still lost, sometimes still struggling, and sometimes still resisting the disciplines of the Spirit.
And where is God in all this? Where is he in all my imperfections, flaws and the strewn broken pieces? Where is God when I fall, cry for help and wander in my own wilderness?
Well, I believe he is there, where I am, at a place he has been before, and taking the same road of grief he once walked.
As Christ bore the Cross on a bloody trail to the Calvary of self-death, that is, the perfect for the imperfect, I am taking my own journey to that same place of my own demise.
But for me, the road to self-denial is never easy. With every step I take, the broad road calls out to me. Its plans to derail me sometimes overcomes my spirit and plunges me into a time of deep reflection and soul-searching.
As Christ confronted divine helplessness for a purpose and for a season, I believe I too have to confront mine for a purpose and for a season no less.
At most times, I know it is not going to be a readily accessible answer. But it will at least be one I know my Savior had taken before me, and overcome.
As such, maybe my belief are made of better things, that is, stronger and tougher.
Surely, it is not made of material that bends and breaks. Neither is it made of defences that yield when threatened and tested.
Instead, I'd like to believe that they are made of the same material that once carried my Saviour through. And they are the material that defy the elements of this world. They are in fact beyond what this world can ever comprehend, contain or contrive.
And I suspect this material is comprised of love, faith and hope, and the toughest of them is still love, that is, a love that will carry me through. Cheerz.