Wednesday, May 21, 2014

analogies

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a potted calla lily plant. It had mauve colored flowers surrounded by lush, green leaves. I brought it home and set it atop my bookcase so I could see it from my bed. The blooms greeted me with loveliness first thing every morning as I was waking up and sipping my coffee.

Then an interesting thing happened. One leaf began to turn yellow and shrivel up. The rest of the plant looked just fine and I have to admit, I was tempted just to cut the one dead leaf off so the whole plant would look pretty again. Instead, I poured some water on it, sat it in a sunny windowsill, and hoped for the best.

Instead of reviving, more leaves started yellowing. In just a few days, the plant was looking pretty unhealthy and sad. The blooms were still pretty and pink, but they were starting to droop. I debated whether or not I should give up and toss the entire thing.
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We have been encountering some really difficult conflict within our church. I'm weary. It seems so much of my spiritual energy has been expended that I'm just left tired, the kind of tired that is more than bone deep. At the core of the situation is the fact that several people have expressed legitimate concerns that have been ignored or belittled. Others, like myself, have been slandered and labeled as divisive, contentious people. This makes me incredibly sad, mostly because I feel it has hindered my ability to develop the kind of genuine relationships I have so ached for and desired. And also because it's really not true.

I am certainly a person who will speak up when I believe something is wrong, but even in conflict, my ultimate desire is to work things out, to find unity and peace, to discover that there is a thread of love that binds us all together and that church is a safe place to struggle. I still believe in my heart that this is more than an unattainable ideal, and I believe that God's people, indwelt by His Spirit, can disagree well and still find unity and security and love.
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So when I sat staring at my plant the other evening with eyes burning and red rimmed from too much crying, aching and exhausted, I felt the Lord whisper an analogy into my tired soul. Because the church is like my calla lily plant.

It might start out as just one person expressing that they are struggling to worship. That's the first, yellowing leaf. It might seem easier or look better just to pluck it out or let it die, since the rest of the plant seems just fine. But little by little, it spreads. The plant is unhealthy, and without radical change, it will eventually die. And even then, it can be a temptation to abandon the whole thing rather than invest the time, energy, care and resources it will take to nurse the sick back to health.

It will take repentance. It will take a willingness to die to self, to put others first, to recognize that while one is hurting or struggling, we all are. It will take hard work,  reaching out in grace and compassion, to leave the 99 and go after the lost sheep, it will take the time required to listen and care and LOVE. It will take prayer and humility. It will be costly.

But oh, how I am praying that everyone involved will be given eyes to see that it is worth it!
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In the Bible, Esther was told by Mordecai that if she refused to take the great risk and go before the king, help for the Jews would come from some other place. But he told her that it just might be that she was born for such a time as this.

If this body of believers splits, God will surely gather up his people and make a way. The potted calla lily may have to give way to wildflowers growing in the fields, in the suburbs, up through the cracks of concrete in parking lots and sidewalks. But perhaps we were born for such a time as this.

I don't know how this will all end. I just know I will do whatever is in my power to finish well. With whatever voice and influence God has granted me, I will champion His church. I will reach out to the struggling and partner with Jesus in binding up their wounds, and maybe I will even let myself be vulnerable enough to let them apply salve to my own hurting heart. We will heal together.

Even in the midst of the hurt, the struggle, the not knowing... I am profoundly experiencing the peace of Christ that transcends all understanding.

It is surely guarding my split-open heart.





1 comment:

  1. Hugs, friend. I have been there. Praying for you from a place of compassion and empathy.

    ReplyDelete

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