To be a part of any human organization is hard.
Because humans are hard, including our very own human selves.
And it feels like human interaction and connection has become increasingly hard over the last 5-10 years.
Demonization of "the other."
An inability or unwillingness to listen to views different from our own.
An increasing sense of outrage and umbrage when we feel slighted or misunderstood.
As well as a kind of "I will just take my ball and go home" attitude when faced with conflict.
As the church in the United States undergoes seismic shifts alongside the culture at large, it is hard to hang in there.
It helps to read the letters Paul wrote to the early church; it quickly reminds us that church life has never been easy, conflict-free, or without controversy.
Because humans are hard. Always have been, always will be.
But there is great value, I believe, in remaining in human organizations especially when it is hard.
There is something about having to face our own biases, our own sinful tendencies, our own arrogance, that humbles the hubristic soul.
Nothing quite takes one down an appropriate peg or two like realizing we are not the center of it all.
I love how Catholic scholar Ronald Rolheiser puts it:
"To be connected with the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers, and hypocrites of every description.
It also, at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul within every time, country, race and gender.
To be a member of the church is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul ...
because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves."
The problem with walking away from the church when the going gets hard is that we might miss out on the painful, beautiful act of having the sharp edges of our souls rubbed off through the simple (but really hard!) act of remaining in the mess when we'd rather run.