Dear Pastors,

I am your daughter.

I am the daughter of a reverend and I know what the inside of a church looks like. I know the hardness of the pew and the length of a Sunday morning and the visits: so many visits to so many strangers when all you want is for your daddy to stay home and teach you to tie your shoes.

And for many years I fought you. For many years I didn’t want to be related to the church. For many years I blamed the church and its pastors for my problems and then I began to pray.

And when I began to pray I began to cry and when I began to cry, the stress of having to be anything at all just sort of drained out of me, and then I began to sing.

And I’m wondering, pastors, if you believe you can’t cry. If you believe you can’t be any kind of broken because you need to be everything for everybody.

But one of the most radical verses in the Bible is also the shortest: Jesus Wept. He didn’t just cry. He wept: he sobbed, he convulsed with sorrow. And He didn’t offer excuses for it either. He openly mourned in front of people and he wasn’t afraid of appearing less holy or less righteous or less like God when he wept. Because he knew the truth.

Jesus knew that the more we mourn, the more we excavate pretense from our souls, and the greater we make room for joy. 

Pastors, when we lose someone, or when we suffer, we don’t need a good sermon. We don’t need the right verse or an elder to come visiting with a plate of muffins that his wife baked. It’s nice, yes, but what we really need is for you to come to our door in your jeans and sit on our couch and hold our hand and cry with us. 

Because when you lose someone, you lose all of the words and all of the smells and all of the hopes and all of the idiosyncrasies that were connected to them. You sit there with an empty hole where that person used to be and the only thing that reaches you is someone else’s pain. Because pain speaks to pain. It fills the hole. It speaks the language of the wounded. And when you sit with us and cry with us, we know you’re hurting too, and it helps to know we’re not alone.

And we pray in the pain and then we slowly begin to sing in it too, broken hallelujahs.

We know you don’t wear suits all week long. We know that sometimes you swear under your breath and you wish you could skip writing the sermon this week and that you are jealous of your neighbor’s boat. We know you are human.

And guess what? It took God becoming human to reach us. It’s going to take YOU becoming human to reach your church. 

I am your daughter and one day I sat up and took notice of you because your shirt was wrinkly and your face was tired and you yawned at the pulpit. And I saw your wife in the front row, in the wheelchair, slumped over from brain cancer and you couldn’t hide it anymore. Your humanness. And your pain spoke to my pain. You understood me. You weren’t perfect.

And that’s when I began to listen.

Because pain speaks to pain.

That’s why Jesus dying on the cross means so much to us. Not only because he rose from the dead, but because he suffered for us first. And that’s what speaks loudest. Because he gets it. He knows what it’s like not to be able to speak for all of the sorrow. He knows what it’s like to be ridiculed and mocked and to be hurt by humanity. He didn’t pretend to have it altogether. He didn’t wear a suit on the cross. He hung there fully exposed to the world. He had nothing to prove.

And you don’t either. You are a mouthpiece for the God of all comfort, yes. You are a vessel for the creator who re-creates and speaks life to the dead. You are the brother of a Savior who was crucified and you have been commissioned to do the same. To die, so that others might live.

And sometimes that means getting dirty, getting real, kneeling down in the dust and seeing people for what they are. Hurt. Confused. Spent. Exhausted. World-weary.

And putting a hand on theirs and saying “It’s a hell of a life isn’t it?” and being more God to us than any perfect sermon ever could be.

With all of my heart, because I love the church and I believe in your ministry,

Emily.







Making It Home