Today’s one of those days where I cross mini hurdles and want it to be a day that I look back on and remember, but in all likelihood, I will forget about today – not the lessons learned but the events.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that my Sunday tradition includes going to church with my family in the morning and with friends in the evening. The two churches are completely different experiences, both valuable but for different reasons. I’ve got deep roots at my family’s church, so many people I love and who care about me right back. God speaks there. My evening church is totally different, however. I’m kind of a fly on the wall, in a sense. I’ve always gone with a couple of friends, and since I left for college soon after I started going there, I’ve never had enough time to get plugged in. I love the atmosphere though, and God speaks there as well.
Tonight, he spoke through a member of the community who was sharing about faithfulness. We’re currently in a series about the fruits of the spirit, and this man was saying that his wife told him that he should speak about faithfulness.
That was nearly the last word he would use to describe himself, but it was what his friends saw in him, too, which got him thinking about that phrase in Galatians 5, “fruit of the Spirit.” The word ‘of’ refers to that to which you belong or are connected. So, when we say “fruit of the Spirit,” we’re not saying, “this is how Christians should try to act.” We’re saying, “This is what the Spirit produces in people who abide in Christ.”
Funny how my immediate thought as he shared his story about how God used him to be faithful to someone else was I would like to be more faithful. I should work on that.
Wow, Ashley. Way to get the exact opposite message.
I had to stop myself and not listen to him for a second while I reset my brain. Hold up there. Remember what ‘of’ means? It’s about being connected to Jesus. It’s about abiding in Him and being faithfully obedient, listening, and letting the fruit be visible in your life.
It’s not about striving to be better or do better. How freeing that is, how hungry that makes me for Jesus. After he spoke, we had worship and communion, which is served at multiple stations where you kneel and someone tells you “this is the bread… this is the cup…” da-dee-da-dee-dah.
It was different for me tonight, though. I knelt at the station, took a piece of bread off and dipped it in the cup as the woman who was serving me communion said, “This is the body and blood of Christ that He gave for you because He loved you so much.”
That last phrase hit me. Simple words that I’ve heard before, but I had to stay kneeling there for a minute with my eyes closed while I swallowed the bread. It was such a blessing to hear that, to hear this woman that I’d never met in a place where I’m still sort of a stranger say that Jesus gave Himself for me because of His great love for me.
This story isn’t over yet, because I had a renewed sense of God’s presence in my heart. It was a repaired connection to my source of life. I glanced back across the sanctuary as the woman kept serving communion to other people, and I got that feeling that I get when I know God wants me to do something. It’s a mix of a fast heartbeat and indigestion. (so pleasant, I know) He wanted me to tell her how she has blessed me.
So I tried to argue my way out of that one.
Oh but that’s kind of weird. I mean, she probably said that to everyone. And I don’t know her. And even more than that, I’d have to walk across the room intentionally, and I’m with these girls that I’m going to drive home. And I really should not do that.
I hesitated long enough after the service ended so that I lost sight of her. See, God? I don’t know where she went now. Sorry. Lost my chance.
Still, though, the fire burned in my belly, and I kept looking around to see if she was there while I talked to my friend. Of course, one of the girls I was with had to use the restroom before we left, so that prolonged the time and the likelihood that I’d see her again.
Of course, I did. She walked across the hallway past me, carrying the cups of grape juice, but she was busy enough and far away enough that I still didn’t obey.
Didn’t you just learn about faithfulness?
God is so patient with me. The third time I saw her, talking to a couple people, he compelled me more than ever before, so I relented. I tapped her shoulder and told her that she had really blessed me in communion. I told her that I didn’t know why, but I felt like I needed to tell her that.
The experience was holy. Obedience always is. I forget how much I crave that. In talking to her, I learned that she had been praying for me, just whatever came to mind as I sat there. She was kind of floored that I felt moved to speak to her. It was beautiful and holy, and now I’ve met a friend there.
And I’m journeying toward faithfulness.