An Invitation from an Account Under Construction

When you are afraid of what other Christians will think if you love someone, you have probably identified a place where the church has led you astray from the Christ.

If you hold a doctrine up to the light to see through it better, and are rejected, you have challenged the auto-pilot, in your self and in your former group. And maybe, just maybe, allowed someone the grace of going after you.

Should you feel weighted by an identity you both cherish but continually causes you to grimace, I am at your side. And I have often felt afraid and I am a regular at the misfit table. Because I am not an expert on this New Life thing.

Let’s add a leaf, because it seems to be a good place to be.

 

When we read the story of the man at Bethesda, the one Jesus sees and knows has lain there for a very long time, the question echoes: do you want to be healed? When you say “yes, but…” and He pronounces YOU up, He pronounces YOU free, well, there is nothing to do but to walk. To walk on the Sabbath and face the red tape. To walk alone and to walk away from the conventional pools of healing you could never get to. You, like that walking man, may not even know for a while that it was Jesus who healed you. He may have to visit again before you get it. But that is what He does. That is who He is. A visitor. A pursuer.

 

He changes our account of things. 

 

If our account of things hasn’t changed very much, it is a scary book we wield as holy and an aging lord we announce. Isn’t the Story living and active? Isn’t He characterized by always working, the One who never had to learn, the Creator of tenderness and justice and possibility? So why are we so still. So still on our mats. So stuck in our thinking. So notorious in our reactions.

Brothers and sisters, he said after Bethesda, “you search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

 

Here at the misfit table, I know one thing right now: THIS IS NOT LIFE. Policies and pulling money and tantrums and cyberwars and accusations and flip flopping and ultimatums and fear are not life. They are manipulation. They are power. They are controlling and they are not Him.

His work will never be based on temporal categories. His generosity has never been contingent upon agreement. The life He offers and lived is and was never about majorities.

 

We are all becoming. We are all scandalously healed on the Sabbath. We all miss Jesus when He is right in front of us and we all may think what’s in front of us IS Jesus when He has left.

 

These are the true things that I have to remind myself of when I am so embarrassed. So sad. So wanting to give in to anger-pride and flee the scene, writing my own one-dimensional stories of others. These are the broken pieces that make up the Church. Church is a community that is all about being wrong and helpless. Sometimes I forget and think we are together because we have the same mission, or we have the same priorities, or we have the same united love.

But no, we are together mostly because we are broken and it took unconventional means to heal us. We are together because at some point in our lives, we didn’t have all the answers–we just had One. Why does that change so much after donning this so-called faith? Over and over, we lie down in old ways, adopt our old accounts of things, and He comes and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

 

If you are broken too, will you join me? If you want a new Life, can I be your company? It would be less scary to answer “yes but…” and walk away together. To see what it is like outside the stagnant pools that are surrounded by mats that have been there a very.long.time. To find the misfit table of questions, invitations and new accounts.

 

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

(John 5:2-15 ESV)

“Look at this perfect house we made!”

I am officially, permanently, 29 today. (God bless that waiter who asked for my ID tonight.)

I have nothing particularly profound to say except many thank you’s and thanks, and thanks a whole lot. To my Shepherd, to my husband, to my family and friends. Such a good, good company I have walked through life with. Many parts are not acquainted with the others, but in my heart, you are all my Church, my companions, my neighbors and witnesses.

In the midst of this inspiring company, I am currently struggling to remain faithful while truthfully realizing a valley. But I have so many hills that have been covered and moments of green pastures and rods of comfort that even though I may cry frequently (though less now than a couple weeks ago), the valley is becoming less unfriendly and urgent to this soul.

The past year has included some amazing developments. Marriage counseling, One Thousand Gifts, growing in understanding of church planting, Guatemala, the adoption process, shared spirituality practices and finally reading Walk Two Moons come to mind. We truly don’t know what this next year will hold. Ryan is 30 now, after all.

Today was not an especially restful day but lazy birthdays are not really in the plans for several years. Until then, I must.teach.children.to.do.chores!!! I did sleep in till 7 and was showered with delicious kindnesses throughout the day, just in case my aging metabolism needed help slowing down. I read library books to my children. I raced cars, jumped on the trampoline, built bugs, and worked on fine motor skills. I skyped with my parents and youngest sibs. I ate with dear friends. I did some official, super-high-profile work.

I also had the chance to tell my story, that convoluted, unconventional story, to a social worker. I sat in a room for two hours with an adult, no children, and answered grown up questions about my life, from birth till now, and my extended family and my thoughts on adoption and… What a special opportunity. It really was a birthday gift.

Today, Ryan and I had separate interviews with DCFS. Suddenly, we are at the top of our social worker’s list and we see the finish line in the adoption approval process. Which means we are very close to when a random phone call could be a significant invitation to our third child’s life. We are very close to the waiting game. While I was testifying to God’s goodness in an office building and all the caring souls in my company, a few miles away my 4-year-old exclaimed suddenly at the lunch table to his dad, “Look at this perfect house we made!! — Look!” while taking in the kitchen, the living room, the walls, the windows, as if all for the first time.

I love that. I love that something that has been relatively the same, going without his notice, for 3+ years, is all of a sudden something to shout about and find a burst of joy in. As Ryan and I wander nonsensically around the house tonight, arms full of misplaced books, toys, outlet covers, and cleaning supplies, as we prepare for our final home study and interviews tomorrow, my mind keeps traveling back to Dante’s lunchtime wonder. Look! Look at this great set of cupboards in the bathroom. Just look at what a perfect bed this is. Look! There’s our front door!

Oh! To have wonder. To have it in the next decade of adulthood, well before everything is nostalgic and before the toy and diaper chaos is over. Before all the answers, before the healing, before the valley has been walked. Oh to see something that is dramatically the same and find something new. If that is not the Gospel, I don’t know what is.

It is such a perfect house. With its unpainted walls, dusty surfaces, loose papers and cruddy carpet. It is grand and excessive and a blessing. And has room for more. One more.

And even in the valley, this valley that has layers and depths that continue, there is room. There is room for something else.  When I see the old, crusty familiar and the tears well again, and I think I know what everything means and what the setting is, may wonder and thanksgiving surpass my poor 29-year-old vision. May I hear the word, “Look!” from a delighted Maker above and see the same, anew.

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