I woke up this morning to ice covered trees and slick roads. Really? Its March 18, Mr. Weather. Didn’t you get the memo? The prophesying rodent claimed we’d have an early spring, but ice storms in March do not constitute an early anything. Can the two of you please get on the same page (preferably his)?
I also woke up to a heartfelt two page written letter from husband. When I came in last night he was working away at the kitchen table. I asked him what he was up to. He smiled, “writing my wife a love letter.” I thought he was being facetious, but as it turns out, he really was penning me a letter. And yes, even a love letter, but only the kind a husband could write.
You see, it was kind and sweet, but also honest and vulnerable. He told me he loves me, but he also told me areas that he’s praying and fighting for me. And you generally needing fighting for when you aren’t winning the battle yourself, you know? So it was that kind of letter.
I don’t know about the rest of you but sometimes I just wonder how the Gospel works. I know it does, but to be honest, I see a lot more of it not-working than I see the radical transformation promised by the Bible. And in my head, I know its not-working has nothing to do with God and everything to do with us. Still I’ve gone from seeing it to yearning for it to wondering where in the sam hill it is.
It had been a long time since I’d been to a true prayer meeting… not a sermon or a small group or a Bible study, but a true lets-get-together-for-the-sole-purpose-of-prayer kind of prayer meeting.
I had fallen asleep an hour before I needed to leave and when I woke up at 7:40, I debated for a whole ten minutes about whether or not I was actually going to go. I wanted to go, but I also wanted to sleep. And for the record, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be praying with some people I don’t know well or frankly how long I’d make it when I heard the meeting often lasts for a couple of hours.
In the end, I quickly read Cohen a chapter of Huckelberry Finn, put on my worn tennis shoes and David’s fuzzy hoodie and headed out. And I’m glad I did because you know what? The Gospel works and I got to experience it.
For all of my sharing personal things on this blog, I’m actually fairly introverted and at times, can feel downright shaky in unfamiliar social situations. So when I sat down and was handed a King James Bible to read right off the bat, I could feel my nerves tripping me up on all those “thees” and “thous”. Once prayer started after the reading of a few passages and everyone’s eyes closed, the time flew by. Apparently praying by myself I close my eyes, pray and then open them up and about two minutes have passed, but praying with others last night the first time my eyes opened an hour and a half had passed. As I listened to others share their hearts, thanking God and asking Him to move in specific situations and then interceding for our county, there was a real agreement in my Spirit and the time and space were filled up in the way only God can fill them; the kind of way that renders you unaware of time and space.
But sweet and authentic as that all was, it quickly (for me) became the backdrop for the playing out of the Gospel that God intended for me to see.
You see, I live in a small town and minus a couple of years at college, where I was only an hour away, and a couple of years in Seattle, where was I truly away, I have always lived here in this small town. And in case you are wondering, all of the cliches are true. I’m related to lots of people, have gone to church at one time or another with most of the Christians in the county, and yes, everybody generally knows everybody else’s business.
So when one person began to intercede passionately for another person, I took notice with my ears and not just my spirit. As the person sitting next to me poured out her heart on behalf of this other person, there were tears as she called on God to move mightily… her voice rose and cracked. I was close enough to feel the tension in her body movements as she cried out to God over and over again, praying with the kind of zeal that hushed the rest of the prayers into the undergirding of her insistent plea.
And while that’s all great, why is it the Gospel? The transformative, life-altering, never the same kind of Gospel I’ve at times felt was a mirage? Because the person she was praying for isn’t her friend. In fact, if I were to try and list all of the wrongs this person had done to the woman sitting next to me I’d be here awhile. I’m not talking about a small moment of offense or a difference of opinion or a spat. No, I’m saying that the hurts inflicted on the passionate prayer warrior were deep wounds… betrayal, lies, character assassination…. against her finances, family and church.
….and yet, here she was… not only praying for this person, but praying with the same desperate, loving, clinging to Jesus kind of prayers that we pray for our children and spouses… the ones we love the most.
Had I not lived in this small town for the better part of my (almost) 32 years, I never could have imagined that the person for whom she prayed was anything but one of her closest friends.
In one of His most well-known and famous teachings Jesus said it this way, [Matthew 5: 42-48]:
“You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy;
But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers alike.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the gentiles (and heathens) do that?
You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness of mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity] as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Sometimes I’m home a lot, in this house, trying to keep up with chores and managing and disciplining my kids. And while I see Jesus taking root in their hearts, what I hear about elsewhere all too often is how this or that person has been hurt by hypocrisy in the church and how someone I went to youth group with is now unsure there even is a god or how some sweet girl who grew up in the church is now an single teenage mom. It can be disheartening. It can leave you asking does this thing really work?
Well, when someone loves and seeks God on behalf of another who has wounded them, let me assure you it does show that its possible to be adopted into the likeness and character of Jesus. When hurt doesn’t turn into choking bitterness and a wounded person feels genuine compassion instead of ungodly satisfaction over their offender’s pain, that’s the proof. The proof that God’s perfect holiness really can be birthed and grow into maturity and integrity and godliness and character and the highest height of virtue in the human heart, a place the Bible says is, on its own desperately wicked.
If that isn’t the Gospel in action, I don’t know what is.
This morning there is a lightness in my heart that comes from being able to say I heard it with my own two ears and thankfulness for a husband who was praying and fighting for me to experience just that.
Mondays don’t always get off to this kind of start. Praying that your is also unusually hopeful too.