Tuesday, June 2, 2015

when church and life collide

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 
- Thessalonians 3:7-13

Sometimes, it's like we live on different planets.

Mr. Fantastic lives on the church planet.

I live on the family planet.

We hop back and forth, of course. 

But every once in a while, our worlds collide, and I realize there aren't different planets at all. We simply have a multi-faceted life and the light refracts differently through our responsibilities.

Last Sunday, as usual, he woke up long before me, and left for church in the quiet of a sleeping house. 

I drew myself out of bed, drew coffee out of the Keurig, and drew the children upstairs to get ready.

After church, he would be leaving to go out of town, and I faced a bit of a gauntlet: the Lady's ballet recital, a puppy who would need some attention, groceries to buy, and then community group that night. 

He texted me on the way to church, asking me to share a word or two at the end of worship. I thought of what I had read that morning in 1 Thessalonians, about the love of spiritual family, and when I stood in front of all those people we love and serve, my heart filled with awe at the sight.

Before me were so many people in the storms of their lives, armed and ready to fight the good fight. Before me were so many victorious and faithful saints, who had passed through the darkness and stood in Christ.Before me were so many different faces, different ages, different races, different stories, different journeys. And together, we make a family. Yes, it's a crazy, blended, not-always-in-agreement family, but that only makes it a more incredible sight.

I was grateful to be a part of it, to have been accepted by them, to be loved and supported by them all.

After the service, the Lady and I walked quickly out the doors to get to her recital. We crossed paths with two of the homeless men who attend our church. I was startled to see one of them had been in some sort of accident. He had dried blood on his face and clothes, and a piece of gauze on his forehead.

I stopped and asked what had happened. My daughter pulled and pulled on me to leave. Both men spoke at once, and I couldn't make sense of what either of them said. The Lady pulled harder, demanding that we leave. I couldn't hear anyone now. It was all mixed up and confused.

The men smiled and laughed, and said goodbye.

And I stood in the parking lot, in the middle of my worlds colliding, I accepted that I would not be able to do any more for anyone than what I had already done. I took a deep breath and got in my car.

When I pulled out onto the main road, the men were walking up to their place on the corner, the unharmed man gently pulling the broken man along. 

I thought then, of how many people had pulled me along, too. I thought of friends from college, pastors and ministers who loved me when I was broken and bleeding, of friends who have saved me from my own worst nightmares, who have needed me as much as I have needed them, and then loved me when I was incapable of loving them back. Shining among them is my Mr. Fantastic, who more than anyone else, has slowed his steps when I couldn't quite keep the pace our lives required.

Together, we have become family. We have known the love of God better because we have loved each other well. We have walked and we have worshiped the One True King, and we have found a home in Him.

Church is many things. It is the place we worship, it is the place we grow in Christ, it is the place we serve our city, it is the place we humble ourselves. But it is also the place we learn to love and be loved, and in my opinion, that is when the grace becomes truly amazing.

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