Involvement with people brings inevitable conflict and frequent disappointment in human nature.
It’s happened to me over and over, in every kind of setting. School, workplaces, friend groups, families… You start out, and everything is great. The people are kind and friendly, they help you and make you feel welcome, the general mood is harmonious and lovely. And then, time passes. You become more deeply involved. You get to know these people better…and you begin to see tiny fissures in the infrastructure.
Eventually, you can no longer ignore the noticeable foundational cracks. You cannot avoid the reality that people bicker, that there are disagreements and tensions and favoritism and inappropriate competitions. It’s revealed more and more frequently in subtle behaviors, in murmurings, and the next thing you know, the truth slaps you right in the face: In its own way, this group of people is as screwed up as any other you’ve ever been part of.
It’s horrifying. You feel disappointed, deflated, and isolated. How could you have been so naive?
I received an indirect slap in the face this week. By my church. They didn’t slap me per se, but they delivered a slap to someone whom I know and genuinely like and respect. The slap felt undeserved, unjust, and plain wrong to me. It feels like a personal blow, because—in contrast—this church has been a wonderful place for my family; we’ve grown as Christians, as humans, as servants. The leaders there have been a great example of how to make a wonderful difference in a community, how to stimulate positive change in people’s lives, how to seek God’s will and move forward while maintaining that goal. The church was so together and influential and inspiring that for a while, I forgot it is made up of people.
And people stink.
And this situation stinks a bit. It will pass in time, but there will be lasting, reverberating ramifications for everyone—and the more deeply involved they are, the more this issue will ring in their ears. Because that’s how it is—diving below the surface reveals so much more than swimming, blissful and ignorant, on top of the water. It’s the reason I fear deep involvement in any setting. Once you dip your head underwater and take a look around, it’s just a matter of time before you see something unsavory floating nearby—or swimming straight toward you.
So what’s the truth that I can’t handle? That underneath the prayers prayed, the songs sung, the teachings taught, the church is a business. Nonprofit, yes—but a business nonetheless. Knowing that doesn’t diminish my faith in Jesus one bit—but it doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy, either.