I see you, beautiful Bride - yes you - the Church - the one who is preparing for her Groom to return and sweep her off of her feet and into eternal bliss. I see you. I hear the whispers and the shouts about how you are getting it all wrong, doing it all wrong, being it all wrong. I have been guilty of adding my voice to those, because you see I encountered you in a place I never expected you, and you left me breathless with your beauty. I stared at you on a Sunday morning in a tin shack in the slums - the garbage dump - of Ethiopia. You radiated beauty, so vibrant that it was blinding, and you looked so out of place in that ugly mess. Yet you looked more at home there than I had ever seen you here. Your love was overflowing, and I was captivated by it and drawn into your warmth. I swayed with your music as your lips sang out praises. You looked different in Africa. You made me hungry for more of you. You made me hungry for more of Jesus, because of you.
I came home, and I didn't know what to do with you anymore, because my face burned in shame realizing what I had been missing - because of me. I wasn't sure how to live - how to be. I missed the you in Africa, and I tried to find the Africa you here. I tried to manufacture it, but that kind of beauty cannot be replaced or cheapened with imitation. It is not possible, and I learned that. I laid in bed at night, and I cried for you. I was striving to fix the part of me that was staining you. But in that striving, I was missing the beautiful you that is here.
The Church is here in North America and there in Africa and there in Asia; she is large and beautiful and spills over borders. She is who Jesus died for, and the one He is coming back for. She is loved and prioritized by her Groom. She should be honored and cherished. I realize this. So I started noticing you - really noticing you. And while everything is not perfect, nor will it ever be. While there are things that need repair; He is using the imperfect and the weak to showcase His perfection. And that makes you so beautiful. The Church will never fulfill us completely - it is not meant to - because it is not Jesus. So she will always leave us hungry for more of Him. But if we can look and really see what she is doing, and what she is capable of, we would be so excited to be a part of her.
I see you Beautiful Bride as you bend your knee to the homeless in your community, bringing coats and blankets and McDonald gift cards. I see you stepping out in faith, crossing the Jordan, and entering the hurts of your city in big, risky ways. I see your arms spread wide for the outcasts - the ones that walk into your buildings dressed a little differently than you. Community and relationships are your heartbeat, and I see you embrace sisters and brothers and turn your open hands toward future sisters and brothers. I see your weary, tired Pastors cry tears for you, and the love for Jesus and His bride that pushes him through the exhaustion. I see Pastor's families sacrifice time for you. I see you inviting neighbors to your table, and I see you breaking bread with the stranger.
I see the Kingdom being built, and the body rising up to action. I see the way warming the pews doesn't jive with you, so you push to do more and open up margins in your life to spill out into the lives around you. I'm amazed by you. God is alive and working, and you, the beautiful Bride, are His vehicle. He is using you in cities, in orphan care, in missions, in rec. centers, in hospitals, in broken homes, in back allies, in family reunification, in schools, in nurseries, in the lives of pregnant teenagers and CEO's, in coffee shops, in slums, in social justice, in after school programs, in your poor neighborhoods and so much more. The Church is building the Kingdom brick by brick, little by little, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus in little and big ways. Things are happening. The Spirit is moving.
You are a living, breathing, beautiful Bride. There have been shifts in the Body, and you are enduring a lot of gossip, but you are still needed. I am still dreaming with you. This is our only spot in history. This is the only chance we get to do what we are called to do for such a time as this. Let's look and see the Bride, for who she is, and what she is meant to be, and watch as God uses her to transform lives through Jesus.
I see you Beautiful Bride, standing there with your arms flung open with grace, your pulse beating with love and mercy, and I know that God still has much in store for you - for us - for the Church. I am anticipating watching the Redeemer continue to redeem, watching Him call out people from all nations while understanding that He chooses to do this through us - His imperfect, yet beautiful, Bride.
I see you beautiful Bride. I am a part of you. We are the body, and I am desperate for the pieces of you that fill in the missing pieces of me. I am passionate about you, and I am celebrating you. I have not given up on you Church, and neither has He.