I took a picture of my toast this morning.
Yes, I placed it on a white plate, took it into my bedroom where the natural light floods perfectly through the windows, placed it down on my yellow blanket and snapped a photo. Of toast.
I cropped said photo of toast. Filtered said photo of toast. Added contrast and a little bit of brightness to said photo of toast. I prepared my toast to show herself to the world. This was my toast’s best day.
I transferred my said photo of toast into Instagram and prepared to write my caption. Something about the drizzled honey. Or the Himalayan sea salt sprinkled over it. Or the avocado spread evenly— in delightful chunks of green goodness— across the 27-grain (or whatever amount) Ezekiel bread.
I said, “Little toast, are you ready for your finest moment?” Little toast in that very moment could not have been readier to meet the approval of others who wished they’d eaten breakfast or resisted the drive-thru or also were enjoying avocado toast on a rainy morning as they surrounded themselves with white walls and succulents.
When it came to little toast though, and the blank caption space, there was nothing for me to say. What could I possibly say? Eating toast? Yum, toast I took a photo of? Toast. Be jealous?
I realized in that moment, sitting on a yellow blanket spread across my bed, across from the uneaten little toast that it was pointless to write anything about toast.
Much of social media is like toast— you desire it for five minutes and then it is gone. You consume it and it’s over. You forget about little toast. You forget about the party you didn’t get invited to. You forget about the fact that your ex is finally living on without you (until the moment you check their page again— 2 hours later— to see if maybe their joy has stopped).
When it came to my little toast and it’s caption, all I could think to write about was church. Weird, right? Toast is not often synonymous with church but, for some reason, today it is.
I spent the morning reading in the book of Acts because I don’t really wander over there that often. Lane and I started a study in Romans last night and it occurred to me that while I read the letters of a man named Paul— an absolute boss in the faith— I rarely get to see where Paul is coming from. I never explore Paul and his cronies in their most pivotal book of becoming in the bible: Acts. Reading Romans before Acts is like starting to watch LOST in the middle of season 2. You know nothing about the plane crash that brought them to this strange place.
I think the reason I’ve tiptoed around reading Acts is because church has always seemed like a messy word to me.
Maybe it’s the way the media twists and manipulates the image of the church. Maybe it’s my own experience. Maybe it’s the experiences of others who felt burned by the body of the church and walked away to find themselves in isolation, pursuing faith solo until they eventually just gave up. Church used to feel like social media to me: it’s important to document that you went but it rarely leaves you changed enough to speak of it the next day.
Acts 2:42-47 describes the first church. It says these people devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship with one another, and prayer. They ate a lot of carbs together (read as: toast). They were so devoted to one another that they started selling off their possessions in the hopes that they could lift one another up with their monetary returns. They attended the temple together. They were thankful when they got to eat. They were always saying thanks to God and people really liked them. It wasn’t a matter of “if” they would get invited to the next party, it was just a matter of “when.” And, as a result of all this, the Lord multiplied them. More and more people were praying, living life, and eating toast together. Seems like a pretty beautiful life to me.
How did we get away from this simple and organic idea of church? How did church become this massive, sprawling thing that makes some of us feel ashamed and unworthy and not fit to sit in the pews?
I told Lane last night that I only used to attend church as a little girl for the bread and donuts. When the communion was over, myself and a few other kids would run down to the kitchen to eat the leftovers of Jesus’ body (look up communion if you think I’m a cannibal in this moment). But when Lane dug deeper with me, I found myself getting agitated and upset. I didn’t feel like studying anymore. I gave him massive stank face, as if to say, “how dare you make me dig deeper into a topic I don’t feel comfortable with?”
My earliest memories of church, up until after college, were of a place where I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel seen. I didn’t feel like God was actually mighty or real in this place. I felt like I was going to watch the girls around me get married young to good, holy men and I would be left behind. I felt like God had blessings for others but not for me.
I wouldn’t have told you it was a safe place where I ate carbs with friends and sold my things because I loved them so much and really, actually wanted to worship alongside them. That might have been the first church but that was not my church reality.
People are lonely and looking for something. I know this much, at least, to be true. People are seeking relationships that don’t look for the backdoor after the first disagreement. People are hoping— and sometimes even praying— that this life is not some lonely journey where you make a lot of mistakes, drink too much, never lose the weight, and always come up short on cash. On the adverse, the people who seemingly have it all are hoping— and sometimes even praying— that this life is not some lonely journey where you always climb a ladder, always make the grade and come up with empty applause, always feel the need to be skinny, and never have a decent thing to do with all this money.
We are living in a bit of a distorted reality and I don’t think it’s our surroundings that always need to change— it’s our perspective. It’s where we are digging for treasure. It’s where we are planting our seeds.
I got an email from two girls last night who are hoping they can start a group on Monday nights where they can sit, eat with people, and basically have an honesty hour once a week. They’re planning to devour breakfast food and talk about real stuff together. I think it’s really beautiful. They want to be Jesus to people— slip into the shoes of Jesus instead of just talking about Jesus. They see the story of Jesus and they are eager to make it louder than their own to the lonely, broken people they find.
To me, these girls are the first church. They are that Acts 2:42 church I mentioned above. They get it. They are craving real life off the screen. They are invested in the idea of friendship, and real conversation, carbs (read as: toast), and the building of a safe place where anyone can come in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this darkness. Could you help me clear it out for good?”
I wish I knew two girls like that in college. I wish I could join their group. I wish I could meet more people who are devoted to the reality of life, rather than the perception of perfection we give our lives to on the screen.
They realize they are one piece, one piece that needs to do its part of loving others, communing, asking tough stuff, and singing back to God with pretty, robust songs of gratitude.
To them, it’s not about crafting an experience that will leave others out. It’s about something real. Some real kind of toast you can gather and eat, not just watch and ogle at from behind a screen. To them, it’s about bringing people to the table and saying, “I know you’re hungry… eat.”
Back to social media (and toast): our ancestors didn’t have it. They didn’t document toast. They didn’t feel this need to one-up one another with a status about an engagement, or a baby, or a piece of kale on a white dish. It wasn’t perfect for them but it was definitely less crowded and diluted by some idea of what real “living” and “church” should look like.
The first church didn’t document their toast. It wasn’t a priority to them, people were. They wanted to love people so well— so deep and so wide— that eventually their own self-obsession would get swallowed up by a bigger story. I think it’s a million times harder to get to that place today because our culture legitimately measures us. It sizes up. It tells us to keep chasing this thing that isn’t real.
We have to fight harder to live real, authentic lives than any other generation before us. What’s crazier to think than that though? It’s never been easier to spot the lonely and lost than in 2016. It is 2016 and we wear our loneliness like a raincoat in Seattle. It’s 2016 and we need to capture each other— refusing to let go— more than any other picture we think is worth taking. We need real church: real, I’m-not-letting-you-go, you’re-gonna-sit-and-eat-with-me, we’re-gonna-have-an-honest-hour-and-then-thank-God-for-breath, you-cannot-make-me-run-from-you church.
It’s 2016: capture someone and make them sit at your table. Tell them it’s okay to eat. Feed them toast. Tell them you’ve got darkness too. It’s okay… That’s all you have to say to someone today: It’s okay, we are going to clear this mess out together. I won’t run.
A PRAYER YOU CAN STEAL:
God, make me hungrier for your people than my need to convince people I’m living better than them. God, strip down the bones of church for me and make me see where I need to lessen and you need to grow. God change this heart of mine— at a slow, steady pace— to want community more than I want followers. God, give me something real to call your “church” apart from a filtered photo and a standard I’ve never been able to stand inside of.