Originally written on January 25, 2015.
We sit behind her every Sunday. We exchange hellos and occasional hugs and she tells my roommie and I that we have beautiful voices. But I did not even know her name for sure until today. Today she gave us a beautiful gift. Simple, but more profound than she will ever know. She asked us if we were attending an event and we both replied that we were not. She knows we are young, paycheck-to-paycheck couples. To our surprise, she responded that she loves us and it would be her honor and privilege to pay for us to go. Our immediate reply was of course not, we cannot let her do that. It’s too much. But she asked us to think and pray about it and finally told us her full name so we would know how to get in touch with her. So, I did what she asked. I thought about it. Rather, I should say, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Roommie thought about it too. A precious thought came to us and it eventually changed our minds. She was not just simply offering to pay for us to have a weekend away at a retreat. She was offering the gift of fellowship. A precious gift that I’m ashamed to say I have pretty much lost over the years. I started realizing that I wanted that gift. I wanted to get to know the sweet lady who smiles and waves at me every Sunday, and so many others in the process. If I could not humble myself enough to accept, I would miss out on an incredibly precious gift.
I have been discouraged and complaining a lot lately about the state of the church in general. Those who have the loudest voices in the church make my skin crawl and my insides churn. I don’t want to be linked with the ‘shouters’ – those who scream hatred to sinners in the name of my Jesus. Jason and I watched a movie recently called Meant to Be. It was not a great movie that I would recommend, but I did appreciate one part in particular. I think Jason was waiting for me to try and fist-bump the woman who said this – “Sunday after Sunday we go to church and we sit and listen to what God’s word says about a Christ-filled life. Well, Christians are never more visible than when they’re standing on their soapboxes screaming that abortion is wrong. They take the time to protest the clinics, to snub their noses at the women that go in and out of these establishments. But tell me something. Where are the Christians who say, ‘let me take your hand. Let me help you have this baby?’ It is lazy and it is an arrogant way to respond and I can no longer be a Sunday Christian.” I could say the same about those who scream on the street corners or even social media about anything in the name of Christ. Or even those who think they are doing the Lord’s work by shunning those who sin differently than they do. I want to know where to find their love. I want to know why they think shouting is going to change someone’s heart better than actually walking through life with them and offering help. They scream so loudly that I cannot find the love anymore. I have lost sight of the love that Jesus portrayed when he walked side-by-side with the same people at whom we scream – ‘sinners’!
I found that love again today. It may appear to be hiding, but it’s not. That love is in the Body of Christ. It’s in the church. It’s just hard to see it behind the shouters. But it’s there. It’s steadfast. It’s beautiful. And if I avoid the church because of the shouters, I miss the lovers. They are the ones who befriend the outcasts, who make extra food and pray for someone to share it, who walk beside the hurting and share their burdens. They are the ones who have taken my own hand over the years and walked me though trials. They so beautifully represent the love of Christ.
The shouters do not represent my Jesus. They just happen to be louder than those who do. But in the end, actions speak far louder than words. And I am far more blessed by the lovers than I am put-off by the shouters. Because what speaks the loudest and most beautifully to my heart is Love. And I am so thankful that the beautiful, Christ-filled woman, whose name I finally know, was there to love me today. She has no idea how deeply she has blessed me.