We have recently started a new series at church-Creating Spaces, because we are effectively "out" of space. We are full, the seats, the parking lot, the classes, which is a good thing, unless one considers that means there is change ahead, in one form or another. For this series, we are going through the story of Gideon. I have been studying these passages for weeks now (Judges 6 & 7). This could be seen as an occupational hazard since I work and volunteer at the church, or it could be seen as one of the many benefits of being deeply connected there. However I look at that, Gideon’s eyes have become a fascinating set of lenses through which to envision this journey.
I am terribly protective of much of my life. And probably have no reason to be living in the country that I do, with a decent income and a modest home, without persecution or wars. Gideon on the other hand was part of a nation who was being oppressed by an enemy. Our lives couldn't be more different. But when I consider Gideon hiding as he was preparing grain for nourishment, I can relate.
Maybe not with physical food, but certainly with emotional nourishment, with the fullness from the comfort I have found in familiar relationships, daily routines, conveniences that make life "easier," and entertaining distractions. As we discuss how best to grow as a church, I feel part of my gut pushing back. I don’t want to lose what I have. I like what I do, where I serve, who I serve with. I like who is in my life, who I do lunch with, who I text during the service. I like how things work. I like knowing where everything and everyone is. I don’t want to change that. I don’t want to risk the new being awkward or having to accept some loss before I figure out what I have. I mean, I chose what I chose for a reason. Because I like security. I like ownership. I like familiar. But I do not like any of the ideas of how things will need to change.
This past weekend I was confiding to a friend about a particularly difficult separation, from a group of people in my life, that I initiated, and that has weighed my heart down with considerable regret and shame. Instead of building into relationships and leading and loving, I blew the situation up in a few moments of panic and crisis. I cast off what was my identity, what was my comfort and a supportive structure because I was in too much pain and I had to do something. I will admit, I beat myself up for this often because of the reflexive nature of the decision. (Despite my willingness to be transparent here, I am choosing to keep the details to a mere sketch to protect others.)
My friend, honoring the silence of my pain as I talked about this situation, waited for a few moments and then simply said, “Thank you.”
Confused, I tried to grasp what she could possible be thanking me for. I had let people down. I had caused pain to people that I loved. I had blown up a carefully constructed social structure that gave significant support to many…because I was incapable, flawed, weak….human. What is in that to be grateful for? I was a monster. I destroyed things. I tore things down. I hurt people.
When I was done silently berating myself and waited for her to continue, she explained that she had been on the outside of that social network. She saw it and admired it, for those within, but she felt left out. She was excluded. After its dismantling, after the initial pain and shock subsided, the individuals took what they had gained in that structure and went into their own life, taking up with new individuals because there was room, creating new connections because there was now time, giving to others because there were more resources.
From what I perceived as destruction, she saw birth.This new understanding waited patiently between us in the park. The children’s party in the pavilion behind us echoed with laughter. The smell of grilled chicken wafted toward us. A dog that had been on a walk with its owner decided that he did not want to continue and laid down for a belly rub. The breeze blew gently, and the grass swayed. And then an idea began to take shape.
The dandelion is not always a flat little yellow sun that grow up in our lawns. (I know some of you have lawns and spend lots of time and money eradicating this weed, but just hang on with me a few moments longer.) Eventually they change form. It is their life cycle. They become what my grand-daughter calls “wishies,” those fuzzy round weeds that wait for the child to help the seeds take flight as they drift away on the breath of the wind. In this way, the dandelion spreads its life elsewhere. It continues on. It gives birth to more who will give birth to more. The destruction is really a birth. But if you look at the dandelion, you will see it pays a price. It is not the same. There are holes in it where the seeds were once attached.
Just as my heart still has some holes.
I won’t beat myself up about this situation anymore. I have made my amends to all of the individuals, one by one, over the years. What happened did, but what happened also caused birth and the scattering of good things to many more people than might have been touched by the original structure.While I have evidence of how dreadful blowing up something amazing can be, I also can know see how God can use that explosion for others. So, and I say this timidly as I pray that it becomes more confident, I will trust that God has a plan for us, the church, too. We seek to deliberately alter our current structure, without causing harm, so that people who are not inside the original structure can experience the scattering of good things that we have been privileged to know.
But I am sure that I will need reminded of this, not unlike Gideon who asks for confirmations throughout his journey. Having Gideon’s example makes it a lot easier to accept being a fragile human with some anxiety about being called to something different. Fortunately, I can trust that God is as patient with me as he was with Gideon.
For anyone from Hope, this post took all 5 of my week's Swedish fish....in case you want to drop more by the office.
You can check out Hope Community Church's Creating Spaces series by clicking here.