In light of these things I have been learning in my last post, I have some confessions to make:
While I have had some great insights, discussions, and breakthroughs in church, my most meaningful insights, discussions, and breakthroughs have happened outside the church. God is speaking to us and teaching us all the time. The question is: are we listening?
I need to confess that we Christians can get so wrapped up in wanting to learn about Jesus that we spend precious little time actually listening to Jesus. You are not going to be able to discern His voice and direction in your life if you don’t know about Him, but the whole point of knowing about Him is to recognize His voice so you can follow Him. The point of knowing your Bible well is so you can love God and love others well. But you don’t learn to love God and love others well by reading your Bible, listening to sermons, coming to church every Sunday, and going to seminars.
If it was all about what we hear, we’d all be a whole lot better than we are because we have all heard a lot of good stuff right? But it isn’t about what you hear. It’s about what you think and do as a result of what you hear isn’t it! Listening to the greatest preacher in the world week after week won’t transform you into a person who loves God and loves others well any more than spending your life in a chicken coup will transform you into a chicken!
The magic doesn’t happen in the church building. It happens outside the church. You don’t get good at golf by reading about golf; you get good at golf by playing golf! The magic happens in your kitchen, your bathroom, at the grocery store, and the place where you get your coffee. You learn to love God and love others by learning what it means to incarnate Jesus’ love wherever you are at, to whomever you are with, in everything you do.
Let me give you an example.
On Father’s Day 2 years ago, I was in the hospital with my daughter Anna. It was about 1:00am. I was sitting on one of those plastic-leather couches in the emergency room. You know the kind of couches I am talking about, the ones where the comfortableness wears off after an hour or so. The ER was busy that evening. From what I gathered from the staff, Father’s Day is usually an eventful day. The room we were in was a waiting room in the ER itself, not the waiting room outside. It was a small room just big enough for the little two-seater couch I was sitting on, and a couple of matching chairs.
My daughter Anna was sitting in a chair across from me fidgeting. Understandable. We had been there since about 7:00pm. I was there for her. She had made it clear that she was not feeling safe, that she was feeling like she would not be able to control the thoughts to hurt herself if we did not go to the hospital. We had been seen by the medical and psych staff, and all of us came to the conclusion that she needed that help. We were just waiting for all the arrangements to be made at this point, and had been told that we would most likely be waiting here till morning.
After I took the last sip of my iced-coffee, Anna looked up at me with sad, anxious, blue eyes and exclaimed, “I’m sorry I ruined your Father’s Day daddy.” Now, we had had company over that afternoon, and that ended up having to be cut short to focus on her. She was sure that I was not happy about that or having to spend all night with her at the hospital when I should have been enjoying Father’s Day, even though I had not said so.
I straightened up, shook my head, smiled at her and said, “No honey. You have not wrecked my Father’s Day. You have given me another opportunity to show you that I love being your dad, and what better day for that to be than Father’s Day? It is not possible for you to wreck it. I suppose I could wreck it if I had a bad attitude about it, but I don’t. I love you because God made you and gave you to me. Being here does not change those things. You can’t change those things. The way I look at it, God must really love me a lot to entrust me with being the dad to someone as special and awesome as you. I am not mad, or angry, or upset. I am glad to be here with you when you need me. You did not wreck my Father’s Day, by asking for my help you made my Father’s Day. Do you believe me?”
She nodded. Her eyes were not so anxious any more.
“I’m serious, now. I mean what I said. You did not wreck my Father’s Day. Do you believe me?”
She smiled back, “Yes daddy, I believe you.”
“Good,” I said. “Want to see if we can watch an episode of Flash on my tablet?” She nodded, and came over and sat with me.
Now, what’s the point? The point is that I have been learning how important it is to reinforce the fact that the love I have for her and my other two daughters is not based on what they do or on how they perform, but is based solely in who they are. That is the kind of love that God wants us to have for everyone.
But that is not often how people understand love is it? We seem hardwired for believing that we are loved, or are worthy of love, or are able to love, based on what other people think of us and on our own performance.
Let me tell you, if God’s love for me was based on my performance or on what other people think of me, He would have kicked me to the curb a long time ago! My heavenly Father loves me because He wants to, not because I earned it. We need to mirror that love to one another. We need to love people because God made them, because we see His fingerprints on their hearts and souls. The more we love like that, the more we understand the love God has for us in Jesus. The more we understand that, the better we love God. The better we love God, the better we are able to love other people.
Now that is not to say I did not have a hard time with that. It was painful to be there. It is painful to see your kid hurt so much in her soul. It hurts to not be enough. It hurt to know that for the time being she needed to be away to get the help she needed. It is very hard, and my heart is very heavy. But she did make my day by trusting her mom and me enough to let us know she needed help. I was glad for the opportunity to tell her that sitting with her that night was just what I wanted to do for her on Father’s Day.