ugliness: (adjective) frightful, dire; likely to cause inconvenience or discomfort; morally offensive or objectionable; origin: 13th century; middle english

The last time I went public with my thoughts (I’m not counting Facebook or Twitter), was back in April. I had some hard decisions to make. After that last post I ended up making one of the hardest decisions I ever had to. I decided to leave the job I was working at and move on.

My official last day was May 30, but as far as those who were involved were concerned, I was done on May 1. It was a hard decision to come to, and an even more difficult transition out of that place. There were factors: first, I had personal obligations to my family. Typically, I would have put those off for a few months and the dealt with them. They weren’t life threatening, and it wouldn’t have hurt to just let them lie for a while and finish my job, but they were still important. Second, my job was an unhealthy environment. And peoples ugliness began to affect my personal life. And that’s what made me decide that I wasn’t going to let my familial obligations wait any longer.

Anyone who knows the place I worked for knows that it comes with a lot of baggage and a lot of hurt feelings. There was hurt and sadness and name calling that has been happening for a long time and I doubt it is going to be stopping anytime soon. And that makes me incredibly sad.

What I learned is that the church is a really ugly place sometimes. It is full of humans, and therefore, it’s going to be ugly a good portion of the time. People love politics (even if they say they don’t) because everyone has their own personal politics. They might not call them that, but that’s what they are: their politics become their agendas. Everyone has an agenda, and that agenda is determined by people’s emotions, experiences, and encounters. In short, our agendas are determined by our narratives.

Think about it, your narrative is what makes you who you are today. Sure, this is a really Western way of thinking, but its true. People’s narratives are woven together when they meet or share an experience. So, lots of people have this place as part of their narrative. It’s something they have in common, and when something becomes a perceived threat to their narrative, their agenda becomes one of defending that narrative.

But here’s the problem: when something or someone threatens to change or alter your future narrative from what we want or expect it to be, we get defensive. And that’s when we get ugly.

Take for example this place. (Don’t get me wrong, I love this place and I don’t want to see it go. That’s not my point here.) People have this place as part of their past narrative. Nothing can take away that narrative. It already exists. It’s the future narrative: the one that we want to see happen which is threatened because there is always the unknown. What happens is that people forget that their past narratives are not the same as their future narratives. Narratives change and nothing goes as we expect or want it to. It just happens.

Sadly, in this situation people have gotten their past narratives confused with their future narratives.

Sadly, instead of dealing with change and making it work or dealing with things gracefully, they have chosen to get ugly and fight about it on both ends.

Sadly, there is a sense that if one’s future narrative is not the same as one’s past narrative, then they have been done an injustice.

Sadly, the injustice is done when we ignore the narrative of those who feel theirs is being threatened and only focus on ourselves.

Sadly, this has caused us to become ugly to one another.

[Yes, clearly this is all vague. That’s intentional. I’m not into name calling. There are a lot of people at fault here and no one is exempt from this situation.]

This is what caused me to make such a hard decision: this ugliness that was all around me. And, ultimately, it caused me to question who I was. Was it me making these people act this way? No. But still, so much of that ugliness was geared towards me that thankfully I loved myself too much to let it make me that ugly, because that’s what was happening. I made that decision because I don’t believe in a church where we don’t deal with one another’s ugliness; we don’t deal with the hurt and pain that causes that ugliness. That’s not the church I signed up for.

I believe in a church where we gracefully allow one another’s ugliness to hang out there like dirty laundry, flapping in the wind and praying for that windy Holy Spirit to help make it clean again. I don’t believe in a church where we ball up our ugly dirty laundry and throw it at one another. I believe in a church where that ugliness is transformed by one another through love, grace, and forgiveness. Sadly, what I experienced was a lot of throwing of dirty laundry. I think I’m going to keep trying to find that place where we let our ugly, dirty laundry hang out to dry so it can be refreshed and made clean and new again. I’m not up for having dirty laundry thrown at me anymore and I don’t want to be in that place again where I want to throw my own dirty laundry either.

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