I am thinking today of someone who cheers me up every time I meet him.There is genuine warmth in his eyes, his humour is quick, he is very ready to encourage and express his good hopes for my future while showing genuine sadness at my health issues. I get the impression that he rejoices in me simply being Kenny and most definitely feel that he makes no demands on me as a minister or as a person. Here’s the thing though: he doesn’t come to church very often. That does not bother me as much as it bothers some. I just think that given his situation and life story it is a miracle that he manages to come very occasionally and that faith is there at all.
In short, to pick up a thought from the opening paragraph, he makes no demands on me, I make no demands on him. We receive what one another can offer with gladness and do not get frustrated about what is not offered and not given.
The reason I was thinking of him today was that I read in a book today that community, whether it is two or three or more, happens in a healthy way when we come together in forgiveness and celebration of one another.
Why “forgiveness”? Well, any one of us in whom the Spirit of God dwells can reflect something of the Lord’s love and care for one another, but we cannot be everything we need the Lord to be to one another; we need to forgive one another that none of us can completely satisfy each others every need and longing, or bring healing in the depth we need to one another at every place where we may be broken.
What about “celebration” the second key to community? Well, once we have forgiven one another for not being God, we are set free to celebrate one another with gladness and thankfulness for who we can be to one another and what we can bring and offer. I think it was Henri Nouwen who said that to celebrate one another is much more than to celebrate one another’s gifts: you can play the piano well, sing beautifully etc. To celebrate someone is to receive them thankfully in their humanity, with their gifts but also with their limitations. It is to be able to receive the unique reflection of the love of God we are able to be to one another. In short, it is to celebrate one another as the beloved of God.
So two or three questions:
Is there anyone you can celebrate today to whom you have been showing frustration, rage or even violence? Violence is how far things can go when we cannot accept that another loves us with a reflection of God’s love; I have been physically attacked by believers, Christian friends over the years on two or three occasions because of their needs which I cannot meet.
Are you placing a demand on someone as a test of their love, or can you accept that at this stage of their lives and experience of salvation they are offering the most they can? You may angrily want to say, “they are most definitely not trying as hard as they could” but my experience as a pastor would say that is not as often the case as we like to assert. Given the whole story “he” or “she” is probably being all they can be and bringing all they can bring more so than you may have the grace to accept. You may have to either accept that or walk away, but don’t keep demanding or you will damage “him” or “her” as well as causing inner turmoils and sadness to yourself. Demanding or clinging won’t lead to anything but heartache; if you don’t walk away, they will, sooner or later “even after 30 years of marriage…” ( A phrase I believe I heard prophetically for someone to hear and to heed.)
Do you need to forgive your church family for not meeting all your needs? Is it time to give up resentment or frustration about church and celebrate your brothers and sisters in the Lord. If you do that, you will probably find that the negative things you thought the church thought about you were not actually their thoughts at all!
One final thought: praying to The Father in the hidden place for “more” of the release of His good purposes for one of His children yields much better fruit than demanding “more” from that same person face to face.
I hope this gives you something to chew over and that the chewing releases something of spiritual and/or relational nutritional value. Let’s give and receive the love of God as we are able at this point in time by the grace of Christ and create forgiving, accepting, non demanding friendships, fellowships and communities of celebration as far as it depends on each of us.
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