Church hopping is a phrase commonly used to refer to a person who goes from one church to another church with great frequency, never truly finding a home. Church hoppers are restless spirits always searching for some type of an imagined utopian community. For a time, these people find comfort and peace in a particular church but then the priest upsets them or they have conflict with another person or they don’t feel like they’re being fed, and off they go again. Searching for a new parish home in the hopes of finding what they’re searching for.
Their discontent can never be alleviated by an endless wandering, but by making a shift in mindset. If you are someone who ‘goes to Church’ it is inevitable that you’ll be on the run again soon. Rather, ask yourself if you are ‘a member of the Church’. If you go to Church, then church simply becomes one more piece in the puzzle of your life the way the grocery store, work and the movies are. But if you are a member of the church, more importantly of The Church, your participation takes on a whole new meaning. Instead of Church being in your possession, you become possessed by Her. You enter into what St. Paul calls the Body of Christ. In his first Epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle makes use of the metaphor of ‘body’ to speak of the Church itself…and how the Corinthian Christians belong to it. We hear,
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1Cor 12:12)
And after a beautiful discourse on how important each of those members of the body are to the larger body itself, and how the suffering of one member affects everyone else, he concludes with a direct statement that you and I are the body,
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1Cor 12:27)
When we have this mindset about Church membership, it’s easy to see why we don’t church hop. Church isn’t just a place I go, it’s the body of Christ that I am a part of; the body of Christ that possesses me and in which my salvation is fought for. Then we work with our priest, even if he upset us, we make peace with our fellow members even when we have conflict and we become creators and implementers of ideas that feed others rather than just looking for what the Church can give me.
My oldest daughter and I went on a dinner date for sushi this week. Fabulous. There are very few things better than spending legit quality time with an amazing person, especially when that amazing person is your child. Our conversations were light and free and we spoke about a wide range of topics, including the Lakers’ impending return to prominence.
Sitting at the table next to us was a nice looking couple out for the evening. I was struck by the fact that though they were physically together, they were not actually together. The man was completely absorbed by his cell phone. I’m not really sure what he was looking at, but it clearly garnered more of his attention than he gave to his wife. When their food arrived, he set the phone down, though the screen was still illuminated, and we watched to see if they would begin talking to each other. The lady’s rainbow roll must have been delicious because she immediately took out her cell phone and began snapping photos of it to post on Instagram. They ate mostly in silence and were gone in less than an hour.
This is not anything that we haven’t all seen, shoot, it’s not anything that we haven’t all done, but somewhere in the depths of my soul it rang out as so wrong that night. In Genesis we read that human beings are made in the image and after the likeness of God (Gen 1.26). We are created to reflect God’s image in our lives and to act the way God acts. And so we look to God to learn what that means: In Orthodox theology, we refer to the three persons of the Trinity, not the three individuals. While that may seem like trite semantics, using the term “person” over “individual” reveals how we understand God: that He functions in relationship. Persons have relationship with other persons; individuals suffer alone on deserted islands. So in order for us to live like God, one of the first things we must do is to have relationship with other human beings. And to do that, we’ve got to put the phones down!
I know that’s not easy, I’m guilty of it as well. We’ve built new neurological connections in our brains and we reach for the phone out of habit, sometimes not even conscious we’re doing so. We get nervous that our kids may not be safe and we have to check on them. We don’t want to miss a business opportunity so we answer every call. Heaven forbid someone think we’re ignoring him so we respond to every text or email as they come in. And of course, everyone needs to see how amazing my wagyu burger with truffle aioli and arugula looks, so just a quick post to Insta. All of this happening while face to face with another human being. When this happens, we have reverted to being an individual and are no longer a person.
Below is a short list of some of the hacks you can try to conquer this monster.
- Start by remembering that the person right in front of you is more important at that moment than any other person not in front of you. It’s about mindset to be sure. God made the person in front of you and he or she matters to Him. They can matter to you too.
- Leave your phone in the car.
- Turn your ringer AND vibrate off when you’re with another person.
- Mute the notifications on your Apple Watch or Fitbit. It’s just as brutal for another person to witness you look down at your watch and see the text as it is to pull out your phone and address it. You send a message of “something more important popped up but I’m going to pretend to give you attention even though it will be bouncing around in my brain for the rest of our conversation and I won’t really be interested in what you’re saying”.
- Keep the phone in your purse or pocket. Even with the phone on mute or upside down, when it sits on the table in front of you, it’s a subconscious reminder to everyone present that something seemingly more important is lurking out there.
- When your conversation partner gets up to use the restroom, pull out your phone super quickly to check for your emergencies but then make sure it’s back in your pocket before they return.
- Schedule time blocks in the day for phone use. This one is powerful. I actually schedule appointments during each day when I read and respond to email. Though I’m certainly not perfect at it, I’ve found my productivity skyrockets when I do.
- Be humble enough to remember that you’re probably not as important as you think you are, and try to look the other person in their eyes. Connection, understanding and love can happen.
So come on Warrior Saints™, let’s work on this one together. Let our phones be tools and not monsters. Let the human being in front of you be a person and not an individual. And as we read in 3John 15: I hope to see you soon and we will talk together face to face.
Another day, another bombing. This time Manchester. Islamic terrorism has become so common that we hardly blink anymore.
Over 70 pronouns to accompany someone’s preferred gender. Or gender identity. I mean, gender expression. Wait, gender proclivity? No, animal kin. Yeah, that’s it, animal kin.
Marriages open enough to date other people. Marriages bringing in a third person. Marriages to oneself. Seriously, that’s a thing.
Politicians that preserve self-interest. And divide us into groups. And insult. And lie. And threaten. And propagate post-modern Marxism.
At least our college campuses have maintained the integrity of free speech, intellectual honesty and truth. Well, except that they don’t honor science anymore. Oh yeah, and they teach opinion as fact…unless your opinion is different than what they say, then it’s false.
(Image Source: http://lifefellowship.com/life/life-issues/brokenness)
How many more do you want? I could go on.
The world is a battlefield. And the fight is not between people. People don’t exist anymore. We’re now all part of identity groups. Identity groups that at best don’t speak to each other and at worst try to destroy one another. Our morality is suspect. Our health is failing. Our debt is out of control. Not to mention the fear of death that most of us don’t want to even think about. It’s nuts.
The voice of culture wants to persuade us that focusing on myself and being politically correct is the proper way to engage in this battle. Just take care of myself because I’m all that really matters. Oh, and don’t offend anyone. We don’t offend, we tolerate anything, even at the expense of telling the truth. Do this and everything will work out fine.
Ok, so how’s that working out for you?
Even a cursory glance into the eyes of people around us will show that this way doesn’t work. It only leads us to deeper suffering and often overwhelming feelings of fear and loneliness. The cave is deep and dark. And there are monsters inside.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ showed us a different Way. Different not in that he expects us to face different challenges, nor that he expects us to run and hide from the chaos of the world. Rather he shows us a Way that leads directly towards that deep, dark cave inside each of us. And he shows us that through the Cross all of the monsters inside that darkness are vulnerable. The monsters can be conquered. Conquered by confronting them, recognizing them, admitting to ourselves that they are real. And then through his grace to transform them: turning darkness to light and death to life. This happens when we become strong, independent leaders. Who think. When we become Warrior Saints™.
The mission of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church is to train Warrior Saints™ to become strong, powerful and thoughtful leaders who are educated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whose lives are enriched as a community of people who worship and gather together. And who are then empowered to go out into the world and serve our brothers and sisters in need. The mission of this blog, The Way of the Warrior Saint is to offer thoughts, insights and ideas that help guide us in our Christian walk, reflecting on current life events through the lens of Holy Scripture. We invite you to join us on our journey to become Warrior Saints™.