Tuesday, October 13, 2015

following the road

It's easy to take things for granted.  I find quite often that I can go through a whole day assuming all the things will just be there, without really noticing, without any thanks. Whether it's the water that comes pouring out every time I turn on the faucet, the friend I text a random thought to, or the little boy shoes that will inevitably be on any and every floor of my home.  That's life, and life is supposed to just be there...or so we would like.  It doesn't matter how many times God teaches me that there is no normal and it is not to be the goal I pursue, my fleshy heart migrates back to that comfort of predictability, and I strive to get my joy from the snugness of "same".  

This can work for quite some time until your schedule goes off kilter and your day doesn't run as it should, or a natural disaster knocks out all those lovely first world amenities and luxuries don't happen with a flick of the wrist, or that friend who actually enjoys your randomness is no longer just a quick send button away.  It's in these moments where you quickly (or in some times in my slow learner case not so quickly), see that you have been placing something or someone in your chief spot to assure you are "OK."  

One such thing that I have assumed would always be there is my church.  When finding out the possibility of an unsure future a couple weeks ago, due to financial difficulties and the discouraged patrons that accompany that, my stomach tied in knots, tears streamed down my cheeks and fear crept into my soul.  The scariest thing was the fear, and not just because fear and scary are synonyms, but because fear is not from God.  This was the moment I realized that I was dangerously close, or more truthfully already letting my place of worship fall in line in front of Who I was worshiping. 

Many years ago as a young 20 something newlywed, I would sit on Wednesday nights surrounded by women much more experienced at life than me, and listen to the wisdom that came from years of walking with God through parenting, marriage, friendships and all the ups and downs that come with them.  Many, many lessons came from these conversations, but one that has stuck out with me the most is one from a much wiser woman than me who also struggled with fear.  I vividly remember her explaining that every time she was haunted with a worst case scenario fear, she would mentally travel that road to the very end no matter how difficult, and see what it would be like if she reached the end.  At the end of the road, no matter what it may be, she would always see God, unchanged in His goodness and sovereignty, standing there as He always has and always will.  

Through tears I mentally walked down the road of losing this precious community of believers that God led us to on our second week of marriage.  The first and last church we visited eleven years ago.  The church that all three of my boys have been born into.  The church I have served along side while feeding and housing the homeless, packing thousands of Operation Christmas Child boxes, encouraging high school students through YoungLife, filling bottle after bottle with change for Refuge Pregnancy Center, doing backyard bible clubs, feasting with at Thanksgiving, bearing each other's burdens through the birth and loss of children, loss of parents and grandparents, marital struggles, walking the hills of Romania to love on widows, orphans, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and loving the lost and other community outreach.  Inevitably, like she said I would, at the end of the road I saw my Creator, and all His omnipotent glory, waiting for me and telling me that even if it comes to that, even if the location in which I worship changes, the direction of my worship will not.  God is still God and God is still good and He holds all His children in the palm of His hand.   

While the man-made vision of this church community has not yet been fully realized, God has used it for His purpose as a somewhat halfway house for believers who needed a refuge in the storm of life, healing from the inevitable sins of the fallen, and then encouragement to go out again, out into the world to love and be loved.  For me, I have grown spiritually and been shepherded in lengths I could not have imagined, and even if I was only one, we are told one is enough. But the list of others keeps going and going.

Mistakes are always made, and someone can always get hurt, because in truth there is no perfect church and there never will be. As Rich Mullins said, "...nobody goes to church because they're perfect.  If you've got it all together, you don't need to go.  You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning.  Every time you go to church, you're confessing again to yourself, to your family, to the people you pass on the way there, to the people who will greet you there, that you don't have it all together.  And that you need their support.  You need their direction.  You need some accountability, you need some help."

Do I long to see this community of believers grow and continue to reach out and touch others in the earthly community?  Absolutely.  Do I believe that my God is able to renew, to restore, to regrow?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt.  But even if He doesn't I will praise Him, knowing it wasn't all for naught.  Knowing His hand has always and will always be upon each one of us, as we seek His Kingdom first and follow His will in our lives. To quote the famous Christian sojourner once more, "Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world...Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved..." wherever that may be. 





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