Sitting in a committee meeting with a group of my beloved church members last night, I felt my soul becoming more and more itchy. Have you ever felt that way? I could feel this agitation in my heart and in my skin. I continued to listen, trying to make sense of our research and our current conversation. We have been charged with assessing our church's mission and facilities to make sure that we are being good stewards of both. This is a long, difficult but also lovely process. As our leader stated early on in our committee's life, we are running a marathon not a sprint. Overall, the meeting was very helpful and hopeful.
I felt in my spirit pressed to ask some questions during the meeting. I already feel fairly naive in relation the other folks in the room when it comes to business matters, and needed some clarification on some things. My questions were met with gentle and kind answers, but generally business like answers. As I processed the information later in the night I was able to identify my emotions; I was embarrassed. I don't have the same knowledge base as the business minded folks. But it was more than that: I was simply sad. There is so much more to us, our beloved community, than our facilities but we must have these conversations. I cried with a couple friends after the meeting trying to sort out just what feelings I was experiencing.
See, still fresh on my mind from that afternoon was yet another tragedy, in a string of tragedies in our nation: a young, black man was wrongly killed by police. This horrific and heartbreaking tragedy was still weighing so heavily on my heart yesterday while I sat around the conference room table with my brothers and sisters, while Alton Sterling's family grieved the senseless loss their beloved son and father.
And yet, here we sat discussing millions of dollars in budgets and buildings.
I love our beloved community of faith. We do so much good in our community and around the world with the gifts we are given. This committee's existence is a good example of our desire to make sure we are doing our very best to do God's work with our assets. We are learning to love each other and learning to love the unlovely. We are seeking ways to be peacemakers with whomever our neighbor may be. We desire to BE love in the midst of hate.
We genuinely desire to serve the Lord, but we have this institution we have to manage.
That is where I feel the disconnect. The rub of managing the institution and being freely mobilized as the Body of Christ.
We have neighbors who are hurting, but our roof is leaking.
We have brothers and sisters who are hungry, but our parking lot needs to be repaved.
There are refugees among us who need housing, but that empty space in our facility is not allocated for that.
These are not unique to our corner of downtown Winston-Salem. I am no church history buff, but I am certain at least for the last several decades the Church has struggled with this dynamic.
And yet... we are the Body of Christ. His Bride. And He LOVES us. He loves to care for us and give us good things. Why do I ever doubt that? We have the hope of life and love to the full. Because of Immanuel, God WITH us, we have this hope! So what does that look like? How does it get muddied and messed up? Why do I feel so burdened and weighed down with so much? Why do we grasp so tightly what is in our hands, not believing God for the good that comes with empty hands?
What can we cast off so that we are free to live and free to truly and extravagantly love without fear?
I think that is why I cried. And then I cried some more. Because every time the Lord is teaching me something, it becomes so painfully personal before it becomes anything that is useful for the Body of Christ.
What can I cast off so that I am free to truly and extravagantly love without fear?
Casting off what hinders? That sums up my whole health journey. I am daily discerning what is good for my body and my soul. This deeply personal process has been good and exhausting, tedious and downright maddening at times... My desire is to cast off, to be done with, all that hinders me from the freedom to be fully me, the freedom to fully live and love. Empty hands.
As I processed some of this with a friend after our meeting last night, she just called it what it is. "You felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to ask the hard questions. For all of us. And you did it. We needed you to do that."
Perhaps the hard questions were for all of us. I know they are for me.