When I was 8 years old, I used splintered sheetrock to write my first F-word across a neighborhood trash shed. There was something satisfying even then about using just the right F-word.
Gratefully however, I’ve discovered a more comprehensive use of F-words that I’ll publish in my upcoming book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.” The book outlines seven F-words that will help you maintain resilience.
Of these seven words, I know faith to be the most powerful word on the planet. Faith has many elements, but the chapter I wrote on faith highlights these four: worship, gratitude, prayer and afterlife. I’m going to use the next four columns to take a separate look at each.
I chose worship, because I’m often asked to recommend a particular place of worship. The request sometimes comes from a new resident, but it often arises from someone I perceive as a “hopper.”
Hoppers are discriminate shoppers looking for a perfect worship place. They want a youth group for Johnny, a children’s program for Sissy and a nursery with closed-circuit television monitors and daddy-pagers.
They are most happy when they can find a short sermon and a big-band experience. Throw in Big Gulp communion cups and first-class pew legroom and they are ready for the membership class.
Truth be told, I’ve shopped with similar expectations. I’ve taken a seat on the back pew with the frustration of a benched quarterback wondering things like, “Where did this guy get his degree?” Or, “Does she really think she can pull off a 45-minute sermon? Or, “Is he going to quit preaching before the nodding parishioner cracks his skull on the pew?”
Maybe I should give hoppers some credit. At least they make the effort to find a place to belong. Some folks don’t see the point in searching for a worship place at all. They believe they can have a spiritual life without a spiritual community. They often tell me they see too many hypocrites at church.
To that common complaint I’m always tempted to say, “Don’t worry, I’m sure they can make room for another hypocrite.”
Hold your e-mails. I think it but I don’t say it.
Instead, I encourage folks to see the unique quality in faith communities. Unique in that they remain the only gathering place in the world where people assemble for the sole purpose of publicly acknowledging their imperfections.
I like to explain it this way: If you visit a service club such as the Lions or Kiwanis, you’ll hear their members brag about being part of the best club in the world. Well, they should. These are fine organizations.
Within the community of faith, however, you’ll find just the opposite. You’ll often hear people who admit they’re fatally flawed: all sinners in need of a higher power other than themselves.
If I ever pastor a church again, I have an idea of how a perfect worship experience would begin. I’d start it much the same way Alcoholics Anonymous begins their meeting. I’d instruct the congregants to form a single-file line to the lectern.
Once in front of the microphone, each would take a turn saying something like, “Hi, I’m Norris and I’m a sinner, big time.”
I suggest this little liturgy because I’ve discovered that when you begin worship from the place of your own imperfections, you will be blessed with the deepest insights.
That’s a truth I’ve known ever since I wrote my first F-word with that broken sheetrock to say, “Dennis is a big fink.” I was such a creative writer, even then.