I have this quote sitting by the computer in my office by Brené Brown, a research professor on courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame, turned writer and speaker, that says: “We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.” I keep it there as my personal reminder that it is okay to ask for help sometimes, and that everything that happens in the world is not my personal responsibility. Does it work? Occasionally. Do I still try to do it all by myself? Often. Old habits die hard….
Recently though, I have started to think about this quote not just as my personal reminder that I need other people to make it in this world, but as a way to think about church. You see, almost every day through social media or in person, I have conversations with people about faith/belief, especially after they find out what I do. And usually the conversation goes something like this: “Hi, my name is _____. What is your name, and what do you do?” “My name is Rebecca and I am pastor at a Lutheran Church.” Cue the slightly awkward silence. “Oh, well. I definitely believe in God, but I don’t really go to church.” Sometimes this is followed with a story of why they don’t go to church anymore, ranging from being busy to having been wounded and hurt by a congregation/pastor/denomination. But often it is followed with some version of this: I don’t go to church because I don’t need church to believe in God.
And the truth is, they are right. They don’t need church to believe in God, to pray, to read the bible or any other piece of theological writing. All those things they can definitely do on their own. But like Brown says, not only do we not have to do all those things on our own, but we weren’t meant to.
I remember one of my professors in seminary telling us a story of when his wife was dying of cancer rather young, the pastor of the church they attended stopped by at their house to visit. The woman who was dying was angry. In fact she had even decided that she did not believe in God and told the pastor as much. The pastor who was there with her, instead of telling her she shouldn’t say something like that, told her that that was okay. That was why she was part of a community, so that they could believe for her when she couldn’t believe on her own.
And this pastor was right. We need each other. We need each other to pray with and for us, to remind us that we are beloved when all we feel is broken, to offer us a safe place to really be ourselves and be loved for exactly who we are, to challenge us to think about things differently, and to offer us the opportunity to see God face to face in the pieces of worship and in the ways we show up for each other. We aren’t meant to be alone, and we especially aren’t meant to live this thing called faith all alone either.
We need each other. And I need you. So take a risk and commit or recommit if need be, to living out your faith in community that promises to be safe and full of love, hope, and grace. Because you don’t have to do it all alone. You were never meant to.
Faithfully yours, Pastor Rebecca