Monday, April 26, 2010

Restoration


Although I’m in the now and not exactly running on all cylinders, I am not hopeless. I assure you I have hope and that God is showing me little things through others that are making me smile more and more. A wise man once told me that religion is like the finger pointing to God and one should not get caught up on the finger alone. He also continued to say that religion is like reading a book about tasting a strawberry (D. Blumenthal/G Sipes). Reading a book about the taste of a strawberry is no comparison to actually tasting the fruit. If the finger caused me burden so much that I miss what its pointing out I should look to another finger or find what it is pointing to regardless and at all costs because what the finger points too is really what’s important, God. I’ve become very discontent with Christianity. I’ve realized though a lot of these feelings are a meshing of bitterness and true seeking. The bitterness thing is being worked out more and more daily. I’m arriving at peace more and more daily. I recently told my beautiful fiancée that I no longer wanted to be the cynical or contrary guy. I no longer wanted to have something opposing to say about religion all the time. I’ve learned that I do these things because my bitterness hasn’t been fully worked out yet. So I think God is working in me on this.
We’ve been going to this church gathering called Trinity on Sunday mornings since about August of last year. We don’t go every week because we travel a lot in the summer and sometimes do other things (I’ll talk about another thing later). One morning I leaned over to Julia and whispered, I think that Trinity is helping me like the finger a little bit more. Trinity is just a simple community, nothing to brag about or model another organization about, they would say the same thing about themselves. The people I’ve met at Trinity are so humble and loving that it’s been hard for my contempt for “those people” to live there. They are slowly killing the contempt I have been holding onto so dearly towards church or Christians. There is something different for me about this community. No one fits in; there are no cliques or identity crises. Everyone seems to be well aware that they are all going through things and could be better but just aren’t right now, they are living in their now. Seems like everyone in this community is really just trying to live for today and meet God where they are. It seems like they really want to live a life changed by Jesus. This is one small thing God is using to convince me that not all people who claim this faith are what I’ve experienced or what my experience has led me to believe.

We did not attend the Trinity gathering yesterday. Yesterday we attended the Center City Ministry church gathering. It was their first official gathering in the new building, well, new to them at least. The pastor of this gathering and group of people is someone I only know as Mrs. Loretta. I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Loretta when she was a volunteer at a program ran out of the local shelter for women and children. I was involved in a children’s mentoring group and she was volunteering in the ladies night group. She came in and did some motivational speaking. Julia loved it. She has always spoken highly of this woman. Recently even said she wanted to be like her because she just exuded joy. Mrs. Loretta is someone I’ve come to respect as well, even before this Sunday. This Sunday I was able to sit in a group of people (110 total) from all kind of backgrounds and walks of life. With all that diversity there was only about one thing you could find in common besides them all having flesh, this was their brokenness and joy in the Lord. I moved up to Indy to start a church and was involved in another start up church. We used to have all kind of strategic planning meetings about how we would do church in the city. We did this for 6 months before we ever had a public gathering. It was very much an organized deal full of planning and strategies. We were a team of people focused on getting this church going. I don’t know all the details of Loretta’s planning and strategy, but I am pretty sure it was nothing like what I went through in starting the first church. The vibe I got from the entire gathering was one of love and investment. Mrs. Loretta was so busy being the church through out the last year or so that a public gathering was necessitated. So here is this lady on stage calling out people’s names, people she knows, people she has invested time in. Everyone who spoke only spoke of how indispensable God in their life was. They spoke of their great faith and dependence on God. When it came time for offering something happened that I’d never seen before, Julia later explained a little of the theology behind it. Mrs. Loretta asked everyone who didn’t have anything to give to raise their hands. She then gave her wallet to someone to hand out dollar bills so that everyone could experience the joy of giving. That alone impressed me. Then Julia explained what Mrs. Loretta told her. She is trying to break a cycle. She says most of the people who don’t have much are used to getting hand outs and she wanted to break that cycle by having them always give.

I walked away from that building Sunday inspired by what hope and joy I saw in that place. Although most church planters would put their noses in the air at that gathering and only have critiques of how things could have been better or cooler, I saw something that strategic ministry teams miss the mark on even years into a church, love and community, true change. I was able to see the evidence of the presence of the Spirit on Sunday, able to be hopeful and inspired by the church again. I walk away from Trinity like that too. I think God is restoring me and building me up again. Little communities like Mrs. Loretta’s give me hope in people of faith again.

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