Month: May 2014
I’ve decided that life is like my refrigerator…
I hate cleaning my refrigerator. I usually clean it at the point that shame (at my messy refrigerator) outweighs my dislike for the chore. I don’t even understand how refrigerators get so dirty… except that my mom always said I was a really sloppy cook. I cleaned my refrigerator yesterday because a friend is dog sitting this weekend and I didn’t want her to see my dirty refrigerator… OK, it’s that shame thing again.
The primary reason I hate cleaning my refrigerator (aside from the fact that I always spill water on my shirt and my kitchen floor during the process) is that I can never get the shelves and drawers back correctly in exactly the same configuration as I began with. It’s so frustrating. I don’t know how someone with a higher education can be completely thrawted and utterly defeated by a refrigerator… but my defeat is pretty consistent. Until last night! Last evening I managed to clean the entire refrigerator, remove every drawer and shelf and get them all back in with ease. While one would think this accomplishment would fill me with joy, my response is one of utter disgust. “Why?” you ask. Because in about six weeks, my refrigerator and I will part ways when I move out of my house. It will remain behind to gloat to its new owners of its roughly 10 and 1 record. (OK, I’ve anthropomorphized my refrigerator, but indulge me.)
It dawns on me that life is a little like my refrigerator. It seems that, just when I begin to feel like I am really catching on to something – really understanding how all of the pieces fit together – it is time to move on. When I arrived at Castleton three years ago, one of my primary tasks (actually the only one that has remained consistent since day one!) was to focus on developing small groups. I’d had some success beginning a small group ministry at my church in Gary. But now, three years later, I realize how little I knew and how much of those first several months involved floundering and fumbling. Over the past two years, mountains of books, conversations, research, etc. have taught me so much about effective small group discipleship. And here it is: time to move on.
I once had a supervisor who assessed that I “like things a little edgey.” By that I think she meant I enjoy a good challenge… although sometimes I’ve wound up biting off more than I can chew. And yet, I suspect she’s right. Life is continually changing and, without those new challenges, think of how bored we’d all be.
In this Easter season, I wonder sometimes why it is that – of all the benefits we’ve received through Jesus – we talk so little about the blessing of becoming part of God’s family. Now, I don’t want to downplay benefits like forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. But I can’t help but wonder: Do people who don’t consider themselves religious really think much in terms of sin and holiness? I’m sure they think about right and wrong, but “sin” seems like an awfully “churchy” kind of word. And, as for eternal life, I once had a friend tell me that the thought of living forever in some “form” that couldn’t be clearly described or defined, just seemed freaky and a little scary!
But I think all of us can relate to the idea of family… even if our primary reference is one of a dysfunctional family. And, when family is dysfunctional, I think somehow, somewhere down deep, we know it isn’t right and we long for a healthier experience of family.
In John’s gospel, right in the introduction, we’re told that, by trusting in Jesus, we become “children of God” (John 1.12). And, on Easter morning, when Jesus talks to Mary in the garden, he tells her to “go to my brothers” [the disciples] to tell them, “I’m ascending [up to heaven] to my Father and your Father…” (John 20.17). Over and over again, scripture reminds us that trusting in Jesus makes us part of God’s family; which means it makes us part of one another.
When I pastored in Gary, I had eye surgery. It turned out to be a way bigger deal than the surgeon told me it would be. For the first week, my eyes were stitched almost all the way shut! My sister in Pennsylvania couldn’t drop everything, drive nine hours, and come take care of me. But, my church family did. They took turns. They’d sit with me when my husband had to go to work. They brought me groceries and cooked for me. They even brought over dog food (for the dogs, not me!). Since I could hardly see, one even read to me from bible commentaries… although I do think she got a kick out of inventing crazy pronunciations of technical bible study terms.
Family – when it’s functional, when it works like it should – are the people who take care of us, help us, and make sacrifices for us. If and when Church is that kind of family, why don’t we talk about it more?
I’m gonna try and talk about it more this Sunday…
Over the last several weeks I’ve been reading a book called “Questions God Asks Us” by Trevor Hudson. (I’ll be leading a small group study on the book during Castleton UMC’s Midweek Connection starting this Wednesday at 6:30.) http://castletonumc.org/midweek-connection/
I love this book because it invites us to consider the bible not so much as an “answer book,” but as questions from God that challenge us to reflect on how we live our lives. One of the questions Hudson focuses on is God’s question to Elijah in 1 Kings, chapter 19.
To make a long story short, Elijah runs off to Mt. Horeb because he’s angry and frustrated and discouraged. He’d just had this “mountaintop ministry experience” and yet when the evil Queen Jezebel sends her posse to track down Elijah, Elijah feels totally alone and totally defeated. And so, as Elijah sits on the mountain depressed and disillusioned, God poses the question, “What are you doing here?” The answer Elijah gives is pretty whiney and pathetic. But, I have to confess, I can relate. It seems like, no matter how many incredible blessings God gives us, we always seem to focus on our failures and disappoints. It’s easy to forget what goes well; but so hard to remember the victories and blessings God gives us.
One of the funniest (OK, at least I think it’s funny) parts of this Elijah story is his dogged certainty that he is all alone. At the end of the story, God reminds Elijah of what he already has been told: there are 7,000 people who share his love for God. It’s pretty hard to consider yourself alone in a company of 7,000! But, we do. We all do from time to time. Convinced that our own shortcomings, frustrations, disappointments, etc. are somehow unique to us… and we want to whine about it.
But if we pay attention… If, in those moments of silence we really listen for the voice of God, we hear and we know that we’re not alone. Others are with us: in our joys and in our sorrows; in our disappointments and in our victories. It’s the reminder God whispers to us… in a still, small voice.