Paving a Way to Unity

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. – Romans 12:15-16

In this cultural climate where many are weeping and many others are calling for harmony, these have to be two of the most relevant verses in the Bible right now.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they come hand-in-hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one precedes the other.

The Greek word used for weeping here is klaio. It means any loud expression of grief, with an emphasis on the noise accompanied with weeping.

And we’re seeing it, aren’t we? We’re seeing pain and fear surface these days. It’s loud. And honestly? I think for most of us entrenched in white America, it’s uncomfortable. We don’t like to leave too much space for lament.

Yet, in this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us that part of our job as believers is to enter into the feelings of others. Even if they are louder than what we’re comfortable with. Even if they don’t make sense to us.

I love what Anthony Bushnell says in his post, Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear:

“We don’t have to agree with the intensity of their fear in order to empathize with them. Compassion doesn’t require us to be convinced another person is entirely correct. It requires us to care about how he is feeling. Even if you think the danger won’t come to pass, the fear is certainly real.”

I immediately thought of my daughter, Salima, who has a deep-seated fear of dogs. It’s gotten better the longer she’s been with us, but when she first came home, she would crawl up my body at the sight of one, screaming like someone was about to saw off her leg. It was intense. It was extreme. And while I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to it, it didn’t negate the fact that her fear was 100% real.

In this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us not to be like Elphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three “friends” who tried to reason with Job when what he needed most was a sympathetic ear.

Weep with those who weep.

Because doing so ushers us closer to the harmony Paul talks about in the very next verse.

Interestingly enough, this harmony isn’t the setting aside of differences. It’s not the idea that we should all just get along. This harmony is talking about being of the same mind. It’s present tense, which means our same-mindedness should be an ongoing, continual process.

Being of the same mind means wanting for your brother or sister what you would want for yourself if you were in the same position.

The problem is, we don’t know what position the other is in. But the Lord. He is clever, isn’t He? He knows that when we step into another person’s grief and weep with them, our hearts start to go soft. Suddenly, we want to understand.

But just in case we forgot to actually do verse 15, Paul gives us a directive.

Do not be haughty.

Don’t think we somehow know better. Just because we may not be going through a thing, doesn’t mean our brother isn’t. And we certainly shouldn’t tell a person how they should feel when they are experiencing something we never have.

Don’t be wise in your own estimation.

I love how one theologian put it:

You don’t know what your brother is going through until you get down in the trenches with him.

And that’s where Jesus calls us, isn’t it? Into the trenches, so we can weep with those who weep. He calls us to put on humility. He calls us to listen well.

Instead of trying to silence the division that already exists, as if silence is somehow the same as peace, let’s step into the heart of it. Let’s do the hard work of healing, where true unity is born – the kind that makes the watching world take notice.

2015: A Word & A Prayer

ABIDE Yesterday, I had lunch with six women.

It was a visionary lunch. A fellowship lunch. A let’s-be-real-and-share-our-struggles kind of lunch.

As one friend shared about the hard season she’d come from and this new season God was leading her into, I was struck with a realization I hadn’t yet put into words.

She said that for so long, she was numb. She had walls up around her heart that she didn’t know were up, and God was finally starting to break them. Her heart was soft and pliable.

And as she talked, this giant, unexpected lump rose in my throat. Because y’all, I’m where she was. I was sitting amidst these amazing women of God, in this visionary meeting of the minds, ready to talk about ministry and womanhood and Jesus, our champion, and all I could think was that I was numb.

JESUS, who SAVED my SOUL, who rescued me from myself, who rose from the grave, who promises VICTORY and GLORY to all who believe in Him and yet …

Numb.

You want to know the great thing about being with Jesus-loving, authenticity-minded women?

I could tell them the truth.

Hi, I’m Katie. I love Jesus. But I’m not feeling it.

There are all these things I know in my head.

I know God is good. (Because there have been seasons in my life when I’ve experienced His goodness profoundly.)

I know God is ENOUGH. (Because when my world has fallen apart, or when my hopes have crumbled into ash, or when my expectations and my reality might as well exist on opposite poles, He. Has. Been. He has been more than enough. I know it from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head.)

But sometimes knowing these things, sometimes even experiencing these things, doesn’t help when you’re struggling with the emotions of the moment.

Thank God, truth does not rest on emotion.

He is good, even when life feels blah.

He is present, even when He seems silent.

He is faithful, even when we aren’t. Even when little-old-me is sitting here not wanting to go to Him.

He still loves me.

And get this.

His grace is sufficient, even when that grace doesn’t move us to awe. <–Click to Tweet

Can I tell you how utterly scandalous that feels to type? Because if His grace isn’t moving me to awe, then something is SERIOUSLY wrong.

That’s just the thing, though. Something is!

Something is seriously wrong with all of us.

We’re all completely messed up, and yet His grace covers it.

I can try to muster up the awe. I can try to fill up my heart. Make it not numb.

But it won’t last.

Because I can’t fix me.

So instead of striving to fix things I can’t, I’m going to ABIDE with the One who CAN.

Maybe some mornings, all that’s going to look like is me sitting with my cup of coffee and my open Bible, with nothing to say.

Maybe some mornings, the only prayer I’ll be able to mutter is, “Show me your goodness.”

Maybe that’s a selfish prayer, I don’t know. That’s another thing I’ve been struggling with. He says to ask. But sometimes I’m not sure if I’m asking for the right things. But you know what? I’m just gonna go ahead and ask anyway, because He calls Himself ABBA, which means daddy, and all the good daddies I know never get mad at their children for asking, and since He’s not just good, but PERFECT, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say He doesn’t get mad at us for asking for things either.

So there you go.

As I abide in Him during this season, I am going to pray that He’ll show me His goodness.

wait for the Lord

Whatever that looks like. I want to see it. Like, off-the-hook see it. This year, in 2015, I want to see His goodness in the land of the living. I want Him to pour out His love in a way that far exceeds anything I could ever ask or imagine. I want Him to show it to me in tangible ways. I don’t just want to be wooed (He’s always wooing us), I want to be undeniably, can’t-escape-it, He’s-after-me-and-won’t-give-up pursued.

That’s my word for 2015.

That’s my prayer for 2015.

What’s yours?

Go and Tell

candlelight

Light shines in the darkness. and the darkness has not overcome it.

-John 1:5

Last night I went to a women’s ministry event called Night of Joy.

There were cupcakes and hot chocolate and a boutique where all proceeds went to helping rescue women out of sex trafficking. There was music, and best of all, there was fellowship. Siting around a table, catching up with friends I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like.

At seven o’clock, we went into the sanctuary, which was packed, and together we worshiped and listened as a sister in Christ spoke about joy.

Not the fickle, fleeting feeling of happiness. But joy. Deep down, in your bones joy. The kind that has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with a person.

She talked about the difference between knowing of God, and actually knowing God.

At the end of the evening, she asked the women who had experienced God as comforter this past year to stand.

I couldn’t stand fast enough, because if there is one thing God has been to me this year, He has been my comfort.

Almost every other single woman stood along with me.

She said to raise our hand if we’ve experienced Him as provider.

I rose my hand high.

She asked us to applaud if we’ve experienced Him as Wonderful Counselor, as someone who’s given us clear direction in the midst of difficult decisions.

I cheered. Because oh, have I.

She went on.

Burden-bearer. Healer. Friend. Father. Rest.  Savior.

Women cheered. Women rose their hands.  Women remained standing.

And then, when she finished, she encouraged us to “go and tell”

Because the world is dark and people are hurting and sometimes, hope is impossible to find.

“Go and tell,” she said, “because this Jesus we worship is too good not to talk about.”

The words are truth.

He is too good not to talk about.

I have seen the risen Savior.

Maybe not with my eyes, but I have seen Him as surely as Mary Magdalene saw Him all those years ago.

He’s brought me joy when there shouldn’t be joy and peace when there shouldn’t be peace. He’s lifted my head. He’s guided my path, especially this year, when we’ve  faced impossibly complicated, confusing decisions. Every single time we hit our knees and begged for guidance, He spoke clearly.

It’s been a year of waiting. A year of missing and yearning and longing. Of frustration and concern and confusion.

And yet, it’s been a good year.

Because He truly is close to the broken-hearted.

He means it when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Do you know this Jesus? This rest-giver, this heart-mender?

I don’t mean do you know of Him. I don’t mean do you go to church. I don’t mean do you call yourself a Christian.

I mean, do you know Him, know Him?

If you don’t, there’s no better time than the advent season to taste and see. To sit and know.

The Bible says that God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.

Well, God promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.

So friends, let’s draw near to Him this Christmas season. Let’s draw near and see what He does.

How have you experienced God’s comfort, peace, and provision this past year?