Last weekend I cleaned my house, threw a pot of soup in the crock pot, and tossed my four kids and husband out into the February cold to fend for themselves. I invited a gaggle of women who, for the most part, I didn’t know very well over to sit together and (baring any technical difficulties) watch a live stream of a two day conference of unclear intent.
This is what I do. I uproot my family and invite strangers to my house for something that may or may not even work.
The conference was called the IF: Gathering. Clearly God is stirring in the hearts of women because despite the lack of clarity about what it even was, 1200 ladies flew to Austin and 25,000 listened via livestream around the country. At my house sixteen ladies from different churches and walks of life braved the cold and drove out to my house in the middle of nowhere to participate.
The speakers dared us as women to ask, If God is real, then what? We were challenged to think about how we live our lives in light of the Gospel and examine what we stand for. We were reminded that we were to live in community and to tear down the silly things that divide believers. We were told to examine our passions, talents, and burdens. And above all, love each other.
Our little group sat through this teaching on the floor and deflated bean bag chairs. One sweet youth pastor sat with my big obnoxious four month old puppy’s paws on her head. And it was beautiful. We worshiped, prayed and discussed. Until Saturday night when my husband took back his house by force.
With such a whirlwind of teaching, I asked myself, where do I start applying all this?
Does that mean I will take in more kids with Safe Families, book missions trips, sign up to volunteer at the local homeless shelter, teach Sunday school, adopt a few orphans, sell my possessions and give everything to charity and move to Africa? (Ok ok I wrote all that to make my husband sweat when he reads this. Because I might get a teensy passionate and zealous sometimes and it DIRECTLY affects him.) The truth is its all of that and none of that, right?
This girl has always taken to heart James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I am a doer.
But we don’t all have to rush out and just “do” stuff for the kingdom. We are also called to be hearers of the Word. The speakers reminded us how ultimately God wants us to rest in HIM. He loves us. He died for us. And he desires relationship with us, not a transaction. Its not “I died for you so now you have to go out and do stuff for me.” That flirts with works-based justification. The Gospel is, “I died for you because I love you.” Any service we do for Him should be an outpouring of our response to his Love.
And yes, as an outpouring of his Love and in obedience to our responsibility to demonstrate his love to the lost, we are called to serve. But we need to build community with each other as believers as well as make TIME to reach out and serve.
We, and that includes ME, need to take a serious look at how we are living. Because we can’t start building community, spending time with God, or serving unless we change some fundamental paradigms in how we live. And I think a fine place to start is with our schedules.
We are living fragmented, compartmentalized lives. We have family time. We have school and kids activity time. We have work time. We have friend time. We have church time. And we have ministry time. Sometimes those compartments spill into each other but most of us are really good at keeping everything in its neat little place on our crazy maxed out schedule.
And it is wearing us out. We can’t breathe. We have no margin.
I think we are crying out for community and meaning in our lives but we can’t FIND it because we are too busy to rest in it. Wouldn’t it be amazing to stop, breathe, and re-think what we are supposed to live like if God IS real?
Our churches are burdened to get us involved and often that means categorizing and formalizing our church lives. Womens’s ministry. Mens ministry. Outreach ministry. Orphan care ministry. Divorce care ministry. Ministry ministry ministry. I have this crazy dream of churches not needing womens ministry because women just DID stuff together. Because they liked each other. Or where churches don’t need outreach ministry because we just did outreach. You know, because its what we are told to do in the Bible. What if instead of formalizing everything we just lived it? We wouldn’t NEED all those ministries. It would just happen.
Sometimes I wonder why it falls on the church to organize us into these ministries at all. You would think that adults could just take the initiative to make some friends. I think of how often I bring my kids to playgrounds then encourage them to go play with strange kids. I advise them to ask the kids to play, introduce themselves, organize a game of tag, etc. Then I sit and ignore the adults around the playground while I surf the web on my smartphone. I do. I’ll admit it. It always makes me feel hypocritical and its not like I am even shy.
Lets put ourselves out there more. We can go out on the playground at church and in our community and make friends, too. Invite a stranger from church to dinner. Get it on the calendar not just a vague, “hey we should have dinner sometime . . . . .” Engaging with each other and with people outside our churches is what God had in mind for us.
But where do we find the time?
People treat their to-do lists like they are gospel. I acknowledge that I am a bad sports parent and will yank my kids from swim practice for just about any reason. At this rate I am not vying for my kids to have a spot on an Olympic team. (Their coach will back me up on this.) But I wonder why more people don’t recognize that is ok to skip events from time to time. Maybe you just need a minute as a family. Or to stop by and have coffee with a friend. Or to visit someone who is sick or hurting. We have our priorities so out of whack that its hard to find time for simple things let alone ministry stuff.
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Oh sorry Johnny, mom is going to sit with her girlfriends tonight and do NOTHING but talk and laugh so you are going to miss baseball practice. Because PEOPLE are more important. Sorry Susie but we can’t do dance this week because my friend is sick and we are going to take in her kids. What would happen if we lived like that? If we lived like people are more important that activity. If we allowed for spontaneity and flexibility in our lives. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
I am not afraid of being busy. I just want to be busy in the right way. I want to be busy spending time with God. I want to hang out with my brothers and sisters in Christ and friends who don’t know Him. And yes I want to obey and do good as He directs me. Those are the ways I want to be busy. But I can’t do that unless I create space for some spontaneity and flexibility.
For two days my house was filled to the brim with my sisters in Christ. It felt a little like college (minus any shenanigans). And we loved it. We soaked it in. Can we find that sisterhood and brotherhood in our lives? Do we have the room for it? I wonder if we can be brave enough to change the paradigm of how we live.
I can’t imagine what we can do as a community of believers if we start here. With our time. This is where I plan to start. I am on my knees praying for what this will look like. I am asking God to show me how I can create margin in my schedule to hear HIM, to walk with fellow believers, and to serve HIM. Will you join me?