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Picnic in the Park this Sunday, June 16th. No gatherings at the kalen center!
rsvp to bring a dish here‣

AfterWords | The Gladdest Thing of All (June 11, 2023)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Amy Hoyle

Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.  — Frederick Buechner

For the last three years, I’ve followed several accounts on Instagram that address depression, anxiety, and trauma. One of the recent posts said, “So I have to heal my inner child and my current self while at the same time looking out for my future self… why are there so many me’s?”

I so relate to this! When I began therapy three years ago, I realized I had a lot of versions of myself:

  • Work Amy
  • Wife Amy
  • Mom Amy
  • Daughter Amy
  • Friend Amy

Why did I split myself into so many parts… and could I ever merge them all together into one whole entity?

Working with my therapist, I realized I had compartmentalized myself for different reasons:

  • to survive
  • to appear strong, even when I was weary and weak
  • to please others
  • to give and give, even when I was empty (Hello Enneagram 2, Helper.)

There is a lot to unpack in each of these reasons, but the root of it all was not understanding my belovedness.

In the first session with my spiritual director, she asked, “Do you believe you’re beloved?”

I knew the Christian answer should be a resounding, “YES!”

However, my response was “Yes, but…”

As we discussed the but, I realized I had assigned myself a large list of things I must DO to be beloved.

  • I could be better at daily devotions.
  • I could pray more often and effectively.
  • I could do more Bible studies, etc.

I know Ephesians 2 emphasizes it’s by faith we’ve been saved, not by works… but I REALLY wanted to stack up some works. And the root of that came from the church I was raised in.

That denomination twisted the message of Jesus, preaching and espousing it’s we who save, it’s our good works that make us good. Many marked in their Bibles the number of people THEY saved.

They gave themselves a major role and diminished Jesus.

In adulthood, I was desperate to find a church where Jesus was exalted, where He was enough. I had such an intimate relationship with Jesus, and longed for honest, authentic relationships and community.

And not to say each church was completely devoid, but there was a common thread that continually broke my heart. The same people who were broken and struggling Monday–Saturday were suddenly all smiles, happy, and blessed on Sunday. Brokenness was hidden away in order to project holiness.

While they studied scriptures and sang hymns of freedom and forgiveness, they missed the main gift of it all­: shedding our old life and living fully into our new life—our REAL life!

Sadly, they preferred appearances above authenticity. But church is where you should be able to exhale. As you drag yourself across the threshold of the church door, you should be free to share your griefs and struggles and find in your community love, acceptance, grace.

It takes vulnerability and an assurance your community is safe to be your truest self, holding nothing back. That’s how false selves fully die, making way to a whole person who is fully alive.

Before we found The Parish, I was fully convinced true authentic community must be something that exists on the other side. I longed for heaven in a place called earth.

And then we found The Parish. From day one, we found fellow sojourners committed to Jesus.

Our miracle community has put on the likeness of Christ, fully accepting we are ALREADY beloved, already clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

The peace of Christ rules in our hearts, and we are truly one body, caring and tending to one another in the most beautiful, authentic way—the way of Jesus.

As we individually and collectively re-story into our true selves, we are free to be honest, with ourselves and with each other. There’s no expectation, no shame—just a community that’s passionately committed to the better way.

“We are called to be a particular point of glory. Fully alive. Dwelling fully in the call of God. The whole person is then a space for God to resound.” — Kirsten Pinto Gfroerer

The world rejects this way, but thank God we are not of this world. In the people of The Parish, God is truly giving glimpses of heaven on earth, and that is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.

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