“I know I should probably participate in the bible study at my church, but, dang, some of those women can really rub me the wrong way.” I’ve actually said this.
“The bunny trails! The off-topic tangents! The way they hold the whole conversation hostage — why would I subject myself to that kind of misery each week?” My introverted, focused, impatient self has actually thought this.
“And the teacher, bless her heart, I only wish someone would help her assess her spiritual gifts, because – no offense – I’m not convinced teaching is one of them.” As you can see, humility is my well-honed spiritual gift.
So, what is it that keeps you from a more frequent gathering with your people? And by ‘your people’ I mean your church; the body of believers with whom you gather for corporate worship each Sunday. What keeps you away from (and annoyed with) the sacred community where God in his kindness has planted you?
Is it a particular person whose voice or demeanor is like a thousand nails on a chalkboard? Or, is it that you are the only academic, or visionary, or free-spirit, or advocate, or thoughtful thinker, when everyone else in the group clearly is not?
Do you feel uncomfortable as the only person who has to work two jobs, or home-school five kids, or who struggles with sexual identity, or is going through a difficult divorce? How can anyone who is not in your position understand of all that you must endure in a day?
Are you the only one who is chronically ill, or who suffers with crippling anxiety, or has recently transplanted from another culture, or lives with crushing debt? Who can truly know what it’s like to walk a mile in your shoes?
And so we hold ourselves apart from the messy, broken, and strange body of Christ. We justify our frustrations with those in church who aren’t sensitive to our needs, and who, frankly, rub us raw. We look for reasons to keep our distance from those who God, in his mercy, has purposefully planted us most near!
Sometimes the Spirit of God is a stiff breeze that ruffles our spiritual feathers and exposes what lies in the heart. This is a true kindness that leads to our repentance and restores our souls.
And so rather than stay annoyed and far away from certain people, we can pray for mercy! We can ask for an extra measure of divine kindness to somehow see, hear, and even appreciate those who most often rub us all the wrong ways.
Because God himself, on actual purpose, has planted us together in this strange and sacred community of believers. His own spirit is remaking us – ruffling our stiff and resistant feathers – into a holy people, a hopeful communion of saints, the beautiful and beloved bride of Christ.
Peace to you and your people,