I realize that I had lost my ‘like’ for my church. And in that state I nearly lost my ‘love’ for many of the people in this church.
Over the past 3-5 years there have been too many disappointments, hope deferred, too much giving power to those who have left – to their likes and dislikes, etc. My thoughts some days were consumed with their parting words, their parting shots at us, the pastors of this church. Some were my friends, some not as well known.
The cumulative effect of trying hard to help, trying hard to please, trying hard to minister to some of these people took it’s toll.
I found myself in a place where I realized that I didn’t like my church.
The one I have given most of my time, energy, and resources to.
The one Marty and I planted with such hope and zeal some 13 years ago.
The one where I had fun in the beginning getting to know and train up people to lead.
Yep. That one.
So here I am in May of 2011, getting ready for our first ever Sabbatical. Ten weeks of a much needed rest. A break from this church that I was supposed to ‘like’ and didn’t like anymore.
When suddenly God…
Used an autistic child named Dylan to interrupt our service, our church as usual. The one I no longer liked.
Dylan was a guest that day. So was his mom. She chose to sit right up front. Dylan decided to ‘preach’. Out loud, up front, moving and mimicking Marty as he attempted to teach.
Marty, after quite some time at this attempt, realizing that the people were riveted on Dylan’s ‘preaching’, decided to draw attention to what was happening.
He realized that God was in this interruption. This ‘elephant in the room’, (not Dylan) the God -timed interruption, had to be addressed. Hearts were on the line. There was an opportunity here to allow God to touch our hearts as we were being interrupted and stretched.
So as Marty brought autism front and center, to the platform, the tension in the room seemed to melt. Hearts seemed to be softened.
Let’s listen. What is God saying to us right now?
I began to look around the room and realized that all of our regular attending families that had children with autism were present. This doesn’t happen very often as it is very hard to pull the family together and physically get to church when you have an autistic child.
God gave me direction as I listened to Him. He said to bring all the families with autistic children up front. Then call all the men that were fathers or grandfathers up and ask them to bless these children, their families.
I then asked others, women, mothers, children to come forward and surround these families as pillars of prayer, holding them up in their tiredness and hopelessness.
And the people came forward. Men, women and children surrounded these heartbroken, weary families.
One man who never had the opportunity to be a father, gave a testimony in tears, confessing that he was one of those getting really irritated that a mother would let her child interrupt the sermon but when Marty began to explain the situation, that autism was involved, he began to weep, God began to change his heart. So he came up front to publicly apologize to Dylan and to his mom for his attitude.
This ‘elephant in the room, God- timed interruption’ seemed to be the ticket to my road to recovery. My road to beginning to like my church again.
As a swell of satisfaction permeated my heart, something bigger than my ability to recover this liking and loving thing again was taking place.
There was a feeling of satisfaction. That’s the word I was hearing. Satisfied. Ahhh…I could feel some release from the angst that seemed to be with me every time I entered our church.
And then over the next couple of Sundays, God broke in with moments of satisfaction. It was a deep feeling, a sudden in-breaking. Homegrown worship songs that touched and began to heal our hearts, a new sense of community rising from the ashes of God’s dismantle. Ahhhh…
And then it was time to start this 10 week journey of sabbatical rest.
And I started the journey with a grateful heart…