I was done, and nothing was going to change that for me. Not prayer, not Scripture reading, not anything. Life was too hard. The kids were too disobedient. Work was too stressful. I was too impatient. And the all those factors mixed up did not make anything that resembled holiness or piety for me.
Now, I know how writing works. This paragraph is usually the one that explains at what point in my life this was (far in the past of course) and what biblical truths have brought me through this season in some sort of life-changing way. But writing has never been my strongest strength.
All these factors of stress, difficulty, and frazzledness did not take place long ago. These took place last night, in the middle of Community Group.
Yes, that time of the week I usually enjoy as one of the high points became a time of shutting down and frustration for me. A time where I could find solace and rest in my brothers and sisters in Christ became a time where I marched angrily upstairs to help Hannah try to bathe our crazy kids. Truth be told, I wanted to be upstairs. I didn't want to be like that in front of my friends! I'm an elder for gosh sakes! I should bear a more accurate representation of Christ-likeness than this, shouldn't I?
How Quickly I Forget
Not 3 days ago from this writing, I sat down with a group of about 10 guys and we dove into a new MD|men study on ministry and the body of Christ. The first session highlighted our neediness. It described ministry in the body of Christ in such beautiful terms. The author painted the picture of a gaggle of his grandkids all wrestling, playing, and comforting one another in a mangled up ball of limbs on his bed one morning. He points out that it was "One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen." He goes on to mention that often we think of ministry as walking side by side with somebody down a straight, beautiful garden path, but that's not often how life actually pans out. It's more like that moving body of limbs, shouts, laughter, and tears.
This teaching was very impactful to me (and what I assume was the rest of the group judging by the lively discussion we entertained for quite some time after). It comforted me to know that we are all to be transparent and needy with one another because it is our neediness before Christ that is the beginning point of the Gospel. Without our need, there is no Cross, no Resurrection. It is central to what we believe and central to how we are to live life together.
But I forgot all this last night. I felt compelled by my pride to pretend like I had it all together, and when that failed I wanted nothing to do with the people (my friends) in my living room. I wanted to be alone.
God's Perfect Timing
Eventually, I carried my fussy 7-month-old downstairs to try to re-engage. Can you imagine how that went? Not well. My internals were still at a boiling point. I made no eye contact. I really wasn't even paying attention to what my friends were talking about at that time. Still shut down. They asked me if I was alright and if there was anything they could do to help. I told them no, I was not ok, and no there was nothing you can do. Perhaps I've been reading too much of Job recently, but I figured God would deliver me from all this when He saw fit. No need to fight it.
It was then a dear brother invited the room to pray for me. "Great," I thought. "This is not what I want to do right now."
But they prayed. And I listened. And I was still angry. Nothing changed. I guess God answered "No" to that one. I got up and went into the kitchen to start cleaning up the mess from dinner. Almost immediately I was joined by the rest of Community Group. "We're going to clean your kitchen dude. Take a break." Normally, I'd resist, but I honestly didn't have it in me. I marched back upstairs to help put my screaming kids to bed.
The Whole Point
Perhaps you're wondering why I'm killing your buzz, telling you the depth of struggle and depravity in my own heart. You've got your own problems, right? You don't need to hear mine. Perhaps that's true. You noticed I titled the last section "God's Perfect Timing" but you don't get it. There was no redemption. No finality. No end to the story. What's the point?
The point is this. When I walked down the stairs this morning, I didn't feel much better. Nothing had changed for me. Sometimes, like in Job, suffering persists. But when I walked into my kitchen this morning, and saw the completed work, the fruits of my brothers and sisters in Christ, it uplifted my heart.
I'm not talking about "it made me feel happy" because that's a little too simplistic compared to what happened. I saw the work they did. I thought about their question last night. "Is there anything we can do to help?" I thought about my dismissive answer. Then, to think they didn't care. They didn't care that I didn't want help. They didn't think to just go about discussing the sermon from Sunday and leave things the way they were. They didn't excuse themselves quietly from the awkward tensions of my home last night. They thought to do something. They entered into the messiness to minister to a brother and sister who really had no idea what help even looked like.
And that's the point. It's the church doing what the church does. Entering into the tangled up ball of limbs, tears, and struggles to love and comfort one another. The helpers helping the helpless. And it is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time.