In my last blog on October 9th, I wrote, “We rarely help people tell their stories, notice their hearts and minds, and give them time to interact with God and His grace for what they notice.” Today’s blog digs a little deeper into that.
When I was growing up I would spend at least two weeks every summer visiting both sets of my grandparents in Lawton, Oklahoma. It was the highlight of my year every year! My Grandpa Wiechman would take me fishing for channel cat on Cache Creek, or bass out at Old Man Hansas’ stock ponds in his pasture. My Grandpa Jack would take me golfing at the Fort Sill Golf Club on post, many times with a couple of other interesting veterans with even more interesting stories. My Grandma Wiechman would keep me up late playing Yahtzee and watching Johnny Carson. My Grandma Wally would keep me up late teaching me about the stars and playing Canasta.
What I loved most about those summer weeks was the unhurried time spent in the presence of someone I cherished, who cherished me, telling stories, laughing, crying…opening our hearts and our lives to each other. I was given a tremendous gift in those long summer days and nights with my grandparents – a gift of slowing down and noticing what was right in front of me…and in me…and in the people around me.
I find myself imagining the church like this – a place where people are comfortable enough to discover and tell their own stories. A place that helps people notice their own hearts and their own minds. A place that helps them start to talk to God about what they notice, and listen for what He has to say. A sacred place where the parts of us that generally get buried by busyness, and addictions, and fear, and self-righteousness – where the real parts of us can be unearthed by gospel light, rediscovered by curious grace, reformed by patient love, and find a place to live among the presence of God and His people.
I find that I will personally fill my time with things that keep most of this from happening. It’s my way of staying in control and keeps me numb and distant to all the feelings I don’t like. It also keeps me numb and distant from love and friendship.
I also find that much of the way we organize ourselves as church seems to do something similar. It’s likely not on purpose or our intent, but often we keep people busy and they don’t notice what they are really feeling. Without even knowing it we keep people living on the surface of life while filling their schedules with servant events and Bible studies that rarely help them notice their grief, their pain, their need, or their brokenness.
But here’s the thing: the times in life when my soul was most alive was when I could be all of me without hiding. When I didn’t feel rushed by my own, or someone else’s timetable. When I could share my feelings that made me feel uncomfortable, and the ones that got me excited. When someone who genuinely cared about me would receive what I shared about myself and help me see hope, help me see myself more clearly, help me see love more clearly.
I suspect Jesus wants to give us these gifts by His Spirit, and by the gift of each other in whom His Spirit dwells. I wonder how we can live as church together in this way – taking the time to draw out each other’s stories, and especially to draw out the deep things of our hearts that the enemy would have us bury under false gods of more work, more entertainment, more numbness, more addictions, or more knowledge. I wonder how we could share our real lives with each other – our real dreams, our real pain, our false gods, our addictions, the lies we believe, the good we get to participate in, the God who loves us, encouragement, hope, love…all of it! I wonder how we could do this in the presence of Jesus, calling on Him in prayer to heal us, to guide us, to enliven us. I wonder how we could live life fully present to the One who is fully present to us with the gifts of Heaven!
What do you say? Want to tell your story? The whole thing? To someone who cares and can help? Or am I crazy to think we could live this way in the Spirit?