You never really realize just how good you have it until you’ve been away from it for a while 🙂 I know it’s cliche, and it’s a shame that it is, because I’ve never felt the truth of it more than I do now.
I’m totally aware of how many people write about their homes in the country and how they praise their blessings of good land, good food, and good company, and I understand I might sound no different from any of them, but when I look around at where I am in this moment and reflect on today, I can’t help but think what a beautiful life God has given me.
Most of the people I know come from broken families, meaning a family of one parent where a divorce or a death occurred to extract the other parent from the equation. Most of the people I know can’t say that their parents totally back them on their life decisions, or love them despite the choices they make. Most of the people I know have parents and family members who either never discipline them or they discipline them for the wrong reasons, out of anger or hatred or selfishness.
This has never been the case for me.
I’m not bragging at all, but I am saying that I feel like an idiot when I think about the times I thought life was really horrible, and, even though it really actually was, I realize that those times were flowers and sunshine compared to the rest of the world. I was by no means sheltered or kept in a bubble growing up. I knew exactly how bad and mean and cruel the world was/is, but I had/have a family who is a support system, a resilient tower that never falls or crumbles when unspeakable things happen. This is a miracle in itself.
This morning I woke up early, with my family, to have time to spend with God before spending the day with Pastor Dan and Julie.
I’m experiencing trouble with submitting to my parents and respecting them no matter what. I don’t know why I’m struggling with this, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am. So I talked to God about it, feeling silly and rather embarrassed about how I’d been acting for the past few days, particularly towards my father. It really comes down to this: no matter what mistakes my parents make, no matter what I think of their decisions, no matter how many fights we get into, no matter how many times I strive for their approval and fall short, no matter how many times they say one thing and do another, I should still love them, respect them, and obey them. After all, God loves me despite His knowledge of my darkest everything, so what right do I have to withhold love from anyone? God sees my parents through His perfect lens of love, and, because I’m His girl and because I’ve known His love, I should see them that way too, no matter how difficult submission and respect may be.
I got changed and got breakfast, and by the time I’d finished my morning routine, Pastor Dan and Julie were in my driveway. I hopped into their minivan and we headed to Wegman’s in Syracuse to go grocery shopping and eat lunch.
On the way there, we talked about many things, mostly movies and food 🙂 It was near the end that I began to talk to them about struggling with submitting to my father. I just want him to know, even though I’m not very good at it, that I love him and that I respect him…but my humanity keeps getting in the way and my pride keeps causing congestion. As I talked to them, I was encouraged by their words, and it felt really wonderful to have two adults who love the Lord tell me what His word says. They reminded me of Sam and Maria, who I’m beginning to miss very much.
We ended our conversation in the parking lot of Wegman’s, and we eventually got out of the van and headed inside. So, if I’m being as honest as I can possibly be about this place, I would say it’s kind of like Heaven, but with check-out lines and organic lemons. It’s a huge store full of all sorts of everything food. We passed through one section dedicated solely to cheese, and I held a giant wedge of something that was bigger than my head and cost over sixty dollars. It was the first time I ever contemplated spending that much money on cheese.
We spent about an hour and a half traveling through the store, which was an adventure for me. We talked to all sorts of kind and wonderful people, including one gentleman who very kindly found stored away zucchini for us and discussed the pros and cons of avocados. I had such a good time 🙂
After we ended our escapade at Wegman’s (and this is most certainly an appropriate moment to use the word ‘escapade’), we found an authentic Mexican restaurant and I suddenly felt like I was back in The City. My burrito was the size of a sneaker and the corn bread had cilantro in it. I was reminded of when Adham and I went to Cinco De Mayo for lunch one time after church. We’d had such a good time and as I remembered good times with my friends I began to grow a little homesick for my other home.
Regardless, as Pastor Dan and Julie discussed relationships with me and talked about how much fun being a counselor at summer camp was for them, I grew excited about the now, about this day, about how God was going to use all of this: camp, lunch with my pastor and his wife, my whacked out emotions, everything. I know He’s going to use it somehow; I just can’t wait to see 🙂
We left to head back home, stopping for ice-cream at Gilligan’s. While we were driving, we continued our talk about camp and relationships, eventually delving into discussing the state of the body of Christ and the purpose of the church.
So, these days there’s a lot of hype in the Christian world about what types of evangelism are effective in winning people over to Christ, in drawing them into the church scene, in securing their souls for eternal life. Here’s the thing: church was never meant for unsaved people.
Now, before you freak out and call me a heretic, take a few deep breaths, pace about the room for a bit, and open up your Bible to the book of Acts, chapter 4.
In verses 32 to 35, it says this:
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need” (ESV).
Here we see a community being formed in the early days of the church. This was a community of believers and believers only that worked as a team to provide for each other and to be of one mind and one heart. When the apostles were sharing their testimony, it wasn’t to save unbelievers, but rather to edify and build up and encourage the believers around them.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the church being one body with many members. “For just as one body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (v. 12, 13, ESV).
The body of Christ is a body of believers. Period. It was meant to be a bride, a unified army of God compiled of His adopted sons and daughters. Do not mistake me: I’m not saying that we, as the body of Christ should separate ourselves from the outside world and let no one in. I’m not saying that if someone asks if they can come to church we should shun them. But I am saying that the point of going to church is not to make sure unbelievers see your good side one day out of the week, but rather an opportunity for you to grow in your relationship with God and to be built up by your brothers and sisters in Christ. The pastor is the divinely-appointed shepherd meant to grow and feed the sheep of Christ, who know His voice. Unbelievers don’t know Christ’s voice.
“Well, Hunter, how are people supposed to hear the Gospel unless we invite them to church?”
I’m glad you asked 🙂
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20, ESV).
Go. Deliberately put yourself in a position where you have to be actively involved in someone’s life. Be bold in your actions, allowing them to match up with your words every day of the week and not just on Sundays. Your love for God and His position as the highest priority in your life should be so intoxicating and attractive to other people that they ask you if they can come to church, rather than you having to invite them. When you live your life, are you living it like your heart has been changed, like there’s nothing to worry about because God is in control anyway and you love Him enough to trust Him? When you tip a waiter or a waitress at a restaurant after talking about God and theological concepts throughout the meal, do you tip generously because it’s all God’s anyway? When your neighbor is yelling at you in anger because you cut some of his gardenias while mowing your lawn, do you yell back because he obviously deserves it or are you gracious in your speech and humble in your tone? But before you can do any of these things, before you can be generous or gracious or carefree, look at your heart. Who are you depending on to change it? God….or yourself? God….or your circumstances? God….or your lover/friends?
The body of Christ is a support system for believers, just like my family is a support system for me. Generosity as well as the ability to be genuinely gracious and loving and humble are all derived from the Holy Spirit and the Spirit alone, and you can’t be any of these things unless you have the Holy Spirit, and you can’t have the Holy Spirit unless you know Christ. What’s the state of your heart? Good works are nothing if they’re coming from a place untouched by Christ, untransformed by God. What’s more important: looking good on the outside and starving on the inside, or being broken on the outside but being fed and growing on the inside?
Just a thought.
I made dinner once Pastor Dan and Julie dropped me off. God is amazing. I was making dinner and Daddy was going to leave for work soon and I desperately wanted him to wait until Mom got home to eat dinner with us. When I asked and his answer was severe, I was tempted to be angry, snarky, but God quieted my heart and reminded me that He loves my father and has openly shown His love to him, so I should do the same. I held my tongue. Surely enough, my father told me he’d stay for dinner, and my heart was happy 🙂
I’m so glad he did too. We had a wonderful dinner time. We laughed and joked and talked about our lives. It was so amazing 🙂
After dinner we headed to Agnes’s softball game. I was able to see my grandparents and my Aunt Joan and my cousin Tyler, being loved by them via teasing and banter of course 😛 I sat on a blanket observing the game, and as I sat there, I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all, of my life, of my family, of my God.
After the game, when we were home, I felt the same way, and God gave me opportunities to ask my siblings for forgiveness (because I had been curt with them as well) and to spend time with them. And for a moment I didn’t worry about anything. I didn’t worry about the future or the past or even the present. I realized that I would be okay if today never ended, if God kept me right in the Shire for the rest of my life, if He kept me single for the rest of my life, if He kept me near my family for the rest of my life. Because this is where He wants me now, and I’m overjoyed 🙂