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No Free Lunches

 

My parents’ marriage didn’t work out – my mother and father divorced when I was around ten years old. I am now aware as an adult that my mother was advised, by persons in the church community, to stay in the marriage relationship despite the fact that it was abusive on many different levels. Today, I am thankful that she didn’t as the storyline of my life would have been very different.

This preamble of my blog is crucial information to the content of this piece. You see, at that time (and it still happens today) divorcees and their children were treated as lepers and outcasts: kept on the outskirts of the community, given what some may consider non-important ministry during service and treated as “less than saints”.

Allow me to share with you one of the most devastating memories I have of our life at that time. It was one of the few occasions that we as children were allowed to see my mother’s pain, allowed to see her wounded. Things were always tight financially and around that time our roof badly needed repairs. My mother approached the church, for some sheets of roofing that were lying around unoccupied on the church compound to assist with repairs to our home. The person responsible for the roofing sheets said to my mother “There are no free lunches in life.” Needless to say, we did not receive the sheets.

As I peruse the scripture, I notice that God was very much concerned about social justice and those who were disenfranchised by the circumstances of life. Some of these are Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 15 and James 1:27, just to list a few.

The Israelites were commanded to seek after the welfare of each member of their society. This was not an option. Deuteronomy 15:7 and 8 says”…do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs.” There was a concern for every member of the community. The statement that the fellow church member made to my mother years aback has to some degree haunted me since then as it is in direct contradiction to the statues God has given. The sense of community and collective responsibility to the less fortunate is crucial to the growth and prosperity of the church community (James 1:27, Micah 6:8). We can sing songs of deliverance, claim and decree and declare in our worship but if we are not obedient to God’s word, how can the church experience genuine, godly success and blessing? (1 Cor 13)

I thank God that my mother was a fighter; she was resilient, determined and faithful to God. Things may have turned out very different for us as a family if she wasn’t. My sisters and I have not, by the grace of God, followed the script written for us by society as children of a broken home with a single-parent divorced mother. As a family we strive to be intentional in our support and encouragement of each other as we celebrate our successes and failures in the different stages and milestones of life. We love tangibly.

It is my earnest prayer that we the church do some introspection and with the Spirit’s enablement, intentionally and lovingly meet the needs of those around us and become the community that God intended.

Pulpit of Embarrassment

 

As I sit here to write this I struggle to even piece the thoughts together. Should I be totally open? Should I polish it? Should I be tactful? I think openness is healthy, so I will let you all into my world.

One of the most painful experiences I have ever had was seeing the congregation of my church walking out on me as my band and I tried to engage with them at the end of a Sunday service. Was I preaching heresy? No. Was I doing some ungodly act? No. Was I being disrespectful to the pastor or members? No. My “sin” was presenting some original works, promoting my concert, and asking for support. In five minutes, the congregation went from approximately 500 people to about 15. Needless to say, I was totally embarrassed as I stood standing asking for their attention, asking for silence so I could make the announcement and do a few songs. Like in the parable of the sower and the seed, my plea fell on stony ground and the birds gladly swooped it up.

I learned quite a few lessons that day. Here are some of them.

Core support is never in the masses:

Having lots of people around you and cheering you on feels good. However, when the next trend or hip thing comes along, the masses will be gone in five minutes or less. The 15 people that remain are the ones that will support you in the good times and in the bad times. Whether you’re hip or unknown, look for the 15 people and keep going. Ask Gideon, heading off to battle the Midianites with 20 00 men, he followed God’s directive and reduced his army to 300 hundred. Guess what? He won.

Even at church, not everyone around you is for you:

Some will smile, maybe even compliment you, but they may not be for you. After that experience I asked God for discernment; in my naivety, I once thought every member of my congregation was “for me”. Well, the reality of life is different. Some will do things to malign your name as well as undermine your work and credibility. I have not and endeavour not retaliate in kind. I keep my peace by allowing God to renew my strength. I also continue to pursue a genuine relationship with Christ, and to engage in fellowship with believers who sincerely care about me as a person and who wanted to live out God’s word daily. Not everyone that calls you ‘brother’ thinks of you as a brother.

You are stronger than you know:

It was ironic. In the face of humiliation, my bandmates questioned why my “own” would treat me that way. Yes, I felt hurt, yes I cried, my wife was upset; we both wondered, “Why?” Faithful member, worship leader, keyboardist, former choir director: Why? However, after searching myself and dealing with the pain, I found a strength I didn’t know that I had. One that allows me to smile with the Judases knowing they will eventually betray. A strength to pursue in the face of challenges. The strength to cry out to God, to praise Him – even when I didn’t feel to. I am quite a skinny guy, so my muscular strength isn’t that much, but I found out that real strength is not measured in muscles but in heart, in passion, and in mental and spiritual resilience.

 

 

 

Passion can be a lonely road:

When you’re passionate about something, it can be a long, lonely trek. Your passion will be questioned and misunderstood. Your passion will be used as the barometer and thermometer of your walk with Christ. The thing that you are passionate about, some will consider it your idol because of your discipline and dedication to learn and improve. In my case, it is music. Needing to learn and grow in an environment where many are less passionate is quite disheartening at times. My passion and drive have been and at times probably are easily misinterpreted as “you love that thing more than God”. However, as lonely as it is, only God knows my heart and commitment to him. He will reward in due time.

 

So there you have it, a few things I learned from that experience, as painful as it was. I believe, and I am convinced, I have come out better. God indeed does work all things out for your good.

 

Bless