I’ve been reading 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs since October 1. I mentioned I was going to do this and invited any of you who wanted to learn to be brave alongside me to read along and I’d post my thoughts periodically. Today I’m learning to be brave in this life with God in His Church.
Today is Day 46. Her topic is being brave to engage in your local church.
I have much to say about life in a local church; much that I’ve read in scripture as well as have experienced. Annie said something that resonates with me:
“Brave people are willing to stay plugged in, even when things get hard.”
I haven’t been in a church yet where relationships weren’t hard. People. People can be hard. I know. I’m one of them.
Here’s the thing: each of us has a list of expectations of how circumstances “should” play out; how relationships “should” work; if I behave a certain way, like sharing my heart, you’re “supposed to” take care of my heart and not talk about me to other people as a “prayer request”. If I invest my time in developing our friendship, you “should” reciprocate. If you don’t meet my expectations, I’m hurt and disappointed.
Any of this sound familiar? It’s painfully familiar to me. Learning to see my expectations for what they are: potential for disappointments when they go unmet; potential for heartbreaks when I’ve risked developing relationship that turned out to be only surface kindness and not actual heart connection, has been a big part of my journey of learning along the Way.
Jesus didn’t come to fulfill my expectations for how my life is supposed to play out (life according to Lisa). He came to redeem my broken thinking and acting; to renew my mind that I may more fully show Him to the world as I navigate risking relationships in a new church community. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Abundant life isn’t lived in isolation. We don’t attend church to check a box and say we’ve accomplished the Jesus points for the week. If you and I are truly following Christ, we ARE the Church, a significant part of the Body of Christ who has been designed as God’s workmanship to do good works that were determined before the beginning of time. We are God’s poetry.
A poem doesn’t have to behave a certain way to be appreciated. A poem is a work of creative art as it is. In a book of poetry, each one is valuable and unique; one might tell a story, one might paint a picture. In any case, a poem is valuable simply by being.
So are you. No doing necessary to be loved by God. No doing to earn favor from God or others. Just be you.
So how do we learn to deal with learning to be a creative work of our loving Creator God who has value in simply being and still learn to interact with all those other poems in the same book we call Church?
We learn to be brave.
It’s brave to risk letting go of expectations that others interact with me in a prescribed way and lean in to the Way God has made me, allowing each of them to be who God has made them to be.
Here’s another part of this beautiful book of poetry: God has given us guidance in three forms: His Word, the model of His Son Jesus and Himself in the Person of Holy Spirit who indwells those who claim the Name of Jesus.
If we look at the guidance God has provided for navigating this life, we see in His Word He has provided encouragement, patterns to follow and even how to handle conflict as His followers. That’s amazing!
The second form of guidance is looking at Jesus. He lived his 30+ years dealing with conflict. How did He handle it? Get into the Word to find out. Was He free from conflict? Hardly! Yet He shows us how to be kind in the face of criticism, how to draw good boundaries, how to care for your soul. We have a beautiful Guide. Do we look to Him?
The third form of guidance is, in my humble opinion, the most extravagant form of guidance: God Himself has set up residence inside us! Wait, what? The God who spoke all this Creation into being, who hovered and protected before the Creation began, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, has chosen to live in you?! In me?!
How can we not be brave?
Life with people is challenging. But God in His infinite wisdom (and divine sense of humor) designed that we would learn to live life in community to show Him to the world.
Church is how that is best done.
So yes, there are disappointments when we have expectations of how people are “supposed to” behave. Guess what? Our expectations may even line up with the guidance God’s Word gives us and yet a real group of people may not live out the expectations as they’re conveyed. How do we deal with that?
Give our heart hurts to God. He tells us to cast ALL our Cares upon Him because He cares for us.
It’s kind of like He knew we wouldn’t get it right and would need guidance in how to deal with hurt too. Hmmm.
Learning along the Way is just that: living life, coming up against something that either does or doesn’t line up with what we knew at that point and then recognizing we need help to grow further. One of the places to get help is found in authentic community with other Christ-followers who are willing to risk being brave to live out what they are learning along the Way.
I’m telling you what I’m learning, and inviting you to learn along with me. A virtual community of sorts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about investing in relationships even when they’re hard and hurtful. God has a lot to say about how to live this life with Him. Let’s learn along the Way together!