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I went to church today like I do every Sunday.

I left inspired and frustrated like I do every Sunday.

Inspired because people make church beautiful.

Frustrated because people make church messy.

This whole messiness thing can be hard to reconcile. Especially when I show up to a church building expecting to get my ticket punched and see Jesus.

Most of us hope for the clean experience: sneak in, get a little Jesus with some cranberry juice, sneak out.

I did that for a while, and I hated every minute of it. I never felt satisfied. I never grew at all.

And that’s because it isn’t how church is supposed to work.

Jesus isn’t living in that building. His face might be all over the walls, but His message and His heart and His ministry are living in His people.

The people who make up the church.

And, sometimes I forget that.

Like everyone else walking through those doors, I show up to get fed, to get encouraged, to get inspired. As if there’s some magic Jesus Juice they’re serving inside and we can all just fill our camel paks up for the week.

It’s doesn’t happen.

Thing is, we are supposed to do all of that for one another. But that requires intentional vulnerability and community and a lot of other things that just don’t happen if you are there for the ticket-punching experience.

I gotta be honest, that’s hard for me.

And then there’s another struggle:

The struggle of realizing that even within that messy building full of messy people, where we are all supposed to learn to love and encourage one another . . . there are all sorts of ideas about what different scriptures mean.

These theological nuances are heavy and important and disagreeing on them can cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people.

This season of my spiritual journey I’ve been so grateful for my church. My community. These amazing people who show up and get messy and honest and allow me to know their stories and walk alongside them.

But this season of my spiritual journey has also been so dang confusing because DANGIT, scriptural interpretation matters.

It just does.

The simplest command I’ve been given is to love God with all my heart and to love others.

And when I see so many of the “others” not being loved well by the church, I wonder if I even belong there.

(At this point I’m not being specific to my local church, I mean Christianity in general.)

If Christ’s banner is love, how do we manage to use it in such hateful ways? Where do I belong as someone who loves Jesus but fights for social justice?

Where is my place in my faith if I am still chewing on basic theologies that others seem to swallow so easily?

Where is my place in the Christian faith if I find those who aren’t in church easier to love than those who are?

When I became a Christian, I had blind, emotional faith.

When I became a missionary I had arrogant, stubborn confidence.

And now, I’m questioning everything.

Not like Thomas. I don’t doubt.

I just . . . wonder. About a whole lot. And I ask.

And I pray.

And I chew on things and I wonder some more.

And yet, I still love Jesus with all my heart.

I’m saying all of this in the middle of the night because, to be honest, it’s been keeping me awake.

But also because I think it’s important that those who wrestle with their faith know they aren’t alone.

It’s scary to admit we have questions about our beliefs when our beliefs are what ground us in life.

I think most of us want to pretend we have these things figured out by now.

Well, I don’t.

And I’m starting to suspect I never will. After 15 years of being a Christ follower, there are about three things in my faith I am absolutely sure of:

1. God loves all people.

2. People are messy as hell.

3. And messy-as-hell people make up His church.

And even though this means church hurts at times, I’ve decided this is good news.

Turns out, I’m the messiest of them all. And in that way, no matter how much of an outcast I feel like . . . 

I fit right in.

You may also like:

Sometimes Church is Hard

To the Christian “Bad Girl” Who Wonders if She Belongs

God Meets Us In the Mess

I Pray For You, My Friend

Mary Katherine Backstrom

Mary Katherine resides at, with her son (Nugget), daughter (Toodleboot), and The Hubs (Ian). There you can find the dreams and musings of a messy, slightly opinionated Southern mama who survives on equal parts grace and coffee. Y'all should be friends. Find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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