Our church is artistic. It comes out in the decor, in the aesthetics, in the choices we make about music and presentation and style. Everyone who walks in the door knows it immediately. But for non-artists, our preoccupation with aesthetics can be confusing. Especially since we tend to stay away from things that are too thematic.
For example, if we were talking about money, we would never use a financially-themed design scheme (dollar signs on the screens or bills on the wall, etc.). Themes are too one-dimensional. And, when people come to church, we're trying to give the Spirit all kinds of avenues to speak to them. If they're really concerned with money right then, the dollar sign motif wouldn't hurt a bit. But if money doesn’t concern them at the moment, everything about a dollar-sign-laden aesthetic subtly communicates "this isn't for you…this doesn't matter…you don't really care."
To be fair, I'm overstating for effect.
But the point remains. We try for abstract aesthetics so people can look around and say, "Gee … I wonder what that means?"
Not too long ago a woman came up and introduced herself after the Cue. She was recently divorced and left in shambles after the termination of her marriage. A friend had suggested she visit our church, claiming "whenever God shuts a door, he opens a window."
I'm not entirely sure what that was supposed to mean in those circumstances, but this woman took that message to heart and began to pray earnestly, "Oh God, please give me a window. All I need is a window. Please … a window."
When she arrived at our church that Sunday she was driven to her knees and flooded with tears. Care to guess why?
We have windows hanging from our rafters in the auditorium. Just windows, going nowhere, showing nothing. Just hanging. Why? We hung them because we thought it looked cool. But really, God had something else in mind. He foreordained that aesthetic, and that woman, in that moment, so he could remind her that our past failures should never be considered in isolation. The past is not the finale. It's just the past. And even after we've failed, there's still hope.
There are open windows.
The great truth of the Christian gospel is that you can win even when you lose; you can have victory even when you're defeated. Because it's not just about the outcome of each circumstance but also about the work of God in you. This woman now understands that, even though her marriage has ended, God has not given up on her. She experienced a small victory in church that day—a victory of hope over despair, of promise over shame, of love over rejection, of family over isolation.
That's a pretty good scorecard for failure, as long as we remember our past is a window into God's better future.