Saturday, May 15, 2010

We All Live In A.......

There was a time when I never thought I would know what family truly meant, nor what it would mean to be a member of such a thing. My family, like too many others, was broken early on in my life, and left me with a constant awareness of lack. This was a lack that it took years to realize could not be filled with "stuff" no matter how pretty, or powerful. In fact, stuff just tended to erode away the edges of an already abysmal hole that lived like a sucking wound in the midst of my chest. The opening line of this post, however alludes to the fact that these things no longer elude me, and that is simply because the grace of God reaches much farther than I could ever run. His mercy also reaching through more time than I could imagine living that way.
The place He led me to to begin the healing process was a church that existed as a kind of spiritual hospital for myself and many others like me. Fortunately it smelled more like incense than high test floor cleaner, and the food, at the backdoor food bank was not even near kindred to actual hospital food, but in the spirit it was most assuredly a hospital. The thing about this hospital was that it wasn't all about drugs and surgery, but rather it was about renewal.
Now "back in the day" if I were to have said renewal everyone would have understood it to be a euphemism for a Holy Spirit outpouring. While this was the power behind the renewing I am talking about it was not heart of it. The renewal that I saw happen was the kind Paul spoke of in Romans 12:1-8. The renewing of the mind is at the core of true change of any kind in our lives. Without a change of mind no change of heart is lasting, nor transforming. The change that happened for me, and many others, was a change in our understanding of what it meant to be family. The intersection of the two aforementioned meanings of renewal would manifest (hehe) in our meetings when Holy Spirit would begin to powerfully fill people to minister to one another. When this happened I became a witness to people pouring themselves out sacrificially to help bear up one another with whatever God gave them to do it with. Many times this sacrifice was a simple one of time, and the clock on the wall was completely forgotten as we gathered around to uphold a brother or sister in any way we could. Other times the sacrifices ran much deeper and the commitments extended far past a simple evening of prayer and fellowship. These were my first tastes of family the way God intended it to be, and it was truly intoxicating.
The sad thing about this story, though, is that I saw this all dwindle away over the course of a few short years as the people began to enjoy the rush more than the people. Many of them honestly thought that the power of the Spirit is what had been bonding them together when in truth it was the binding love (Colossians 3:14) that was releasing the power of God's Spirit. People began to jostle about in the importance of their relative giftings. People began to feel rejected all over again as their own particular apportionment from God was weighed in the scales of human conceit, and only by these scales were they subtly judged to be less. Of course no one would have the brass to actually speak of this belief out loud if they actually recognized it in themselves, but all the signs were clearly posted. The unspoken, and wholly unbiblical hierarchy of God's favor settled over us like dark clouds at a summer wedding. The party was officially over.
There were many spiritual divorces, and physical divorces as well. Family lost the sense of holiness. Once again it became a label for these biological unions we have with each other through marriage and reproduction. The larger spiritual fact became nothing more than a fridge magnet. There were, as there always are, remnants of God's gracious revelation here and there, but they became the exception rather than the norm. These days there is a tremendous hunger for the power of those days, but there is a very limited understanding of the nature of that power that once flowed so richly. I do believe that by God's grace and mercy, so amply poured out to one such as myself, He will restore all that has been lost, but just as He did it with me it will be on His terms not ours.
This is a long lead up to my real, and final point for this blog which is that family is what this is all about. All this "church", "para-church", "emergent church", and even"underground church" stuff is really about family. It is about a love that binds us together in a fashion that raw power never could. A love that will bind us when all these gifts are laid down, and we finally dwell forever in the eternal presence of love Himself. These gifts we are given have nothing to do with some kind of hereafter hierarchy. They have nothing to do with personal merit. They have nothing to do with us at all. They are given to be given away so that others know that they are highly valued and esteemed in a family whose only creed is love. To some there are great measures poured out, which is balanced by great requirements. To some there are smaller measures poured out, and these are balanced by the inverted system of honoring that is foundational in God's kingdom. To neither is there given anything earned, but only that which pleases God, and brings glory to His name. This gives us all the latitude we need to not only get over ourselves, but to also get over the others we rate ourselves by. The only true measure is Christ, and we had better never start to suit up for that comparison test.
Be blessed in all you have received. Bless all with all you have received.

PS This goes out to one particular family member that I particularly highly value.


Wendy said...

Well said, Brad, well said.

diana said...

so very right on - slowly, slowly, may we return