I laughed so hard I almost cried. She gave me a disclaimer before she began, "This may seem a little petty..." A momentary pause as though she considered whether to go on or not. And then, "But I asked the family who has been sitting on our bench at church the last couple of weeks to move to another bench." Overcome with disbelief, I looked at her in confusion. She explained, "Well!" wide hand gestures punctuated the air, "We've been sitting on that bench for the last six years! Now that we only have a few weeks left, I just want to sit where we've always sat. Everyone at our church knows that's our bench!" As her words sunk in, I laughed.
I slapped my knee. "That sums up all that's wrong with Christianity and the churches!" I said. And then I said expletives like, "Oh heavens!" and "My goodness!" Exactly. May heaven have mercy on us sorry pharisees. And may my goodness be seen for what it is, the sadly arrogant, self-centered, narcissistic endeavors that they are.
I thought about her story. all. day. I mulled it over. Until, that night, I cried. Not laughed until an almost-cry. But cried at the sorry state of Christianity. Realized again why I cringe when someone asks me if I'm a Christian. What do they associate with that term, Christian?
I asked my friend if this other family was new. Perhaps that's why they didn't know whose bench they were sitting in? She confirmed their recent arrival.
Christ came to bring the Gospel? And Gospel means Good News? Yes? Okay. Did that family receive good news last Sunday? A smile. A hug. An, "Are you new to the area? How are you settling in?"
And the more I thought about this, the deeper the conviction ran. I cringed at all the ways in a day that I stir up strife over meeting my comforts, my expectations, my wants and needs. As Kay Warren writes in her book Dangerous Surrender, "The kingdom of me."
Jesus, rock my world. Does that prayer scare me? More than I can say. Jesus, I surrender all. Really? Well, I admit, it'll be a struggle. The kingdom of me has a fierce ruler who won't be de-throned easily. Flesh loves her power, her control, her comforts. But count me in. For the battle. For the stretch. For the adventure like no adventure -- that of a life completely surrendered.
I am crying as I write this. The gift of a spirit of intentionality. The gift of brokenness. The desire to have a heart that cries over the things that God cries over. To celebrate what He celebrates. To quite turning a blind eye to that which isn't pleasant. To live as though I really believe that life is short. To live grateful for these precious gifts, heart's desires, longings from a generous Father, Who gives more grace.
I hesitated to post this blog. Talking. Always talking. Passive. Noise.
My sister, Catherine, has a quote on her FB that sums up my feelings, "The only measure of what you believe is what you do. If you want to know what people believe, don't read what they write, don't ask what they believe, just observe what they do." ~Ashley Montagu
I've posted a short video clip below (go to my actual blogsite to view). In the video Straton says, "I used to think that preaching was enough."
I long to know Christ's heart. I long to live... fully alive. I understand that someone else may "sit on my bench" and that sometimes I'll have an opportunity to grow through accomodating someone else. I understand preaching is not enough. I understand I need to show up. I understand I need to kick Flesh off the throne in areas of my heart which I've selfishly held onto -- and invite the King of Kings to reign instead.
Christ's grace is scandalous. I want to be associated with that kind of grace. That kind of love. That kind of service. Guilty by that kind of association.
Please pray for me.