The joyful anticipation of the beginning of Summer break became tainted with disappointment as we walked home from school that day. My fifth grade son and his friend and I sauntered down the sidewalk in conversation as the warm breeze brushed over our bodies; a reminder of God’s never ceasing hand at work.
Our journey came on the heels of the fifth grade awards assembly. You know the drill: outstanding students in academics, athletics and extracurricular activity are recognized before an assembly of teachers, staff, students and parents. My son and his friend did not receive one. Both are smart, kind kids. But they did not fit the criteria for the awards. They understood that. However, a dissonance remained.
“Why didn’t the volunteers for Circle of Friends get any rewards?”
Little did they understand the depth of the question.
Circle of Friends is the name of the group in which they both participated. It’s focus is on engaging students from the mainstream classrooms with students with special needs. Normally these particular students are not integrated into the regular classrooms due to the severity of their disabilities. The group offers a community in which all learn from each other. My son and his friend volunteered for it. My son’s eyes lit up when he shared about his experiences.-building snowmen, going to McDonalds for Shamrock shakes, and enjoying parties together.
During the assembly, most every type of extracurricular activity was recognized. Except this one. Which seemed paradoxical in a sense; given the philosophy behind the group.
But here’s the rub. We don’t “do good” for the recognition.
Wrapping our heads around that reality? Well, that becomes a challenge. Especially when our hearts depend on Earthly motivation to reach out our hands.
Sometimes, the blessings appear invisible. We may not see the immediate “return” on our investment.
Serving a meal at a shelter? May not yield one thank you.
Sacrificing snacks and beverages to the needy neighbor kid who practically lives at your house? May not immediately result in a verbal recognition of your actions
Embracing a person in a vulnerable season of life? May not guarantee their back turns away from you at some point.
Extending an olive branch to the person with whom you butt heads in church? May not resolve the conflict instantly.
So while I understood the disappointment tugging at the hearts of my two tween companions that day; even resonated with them, I held a greater truth in my heart. One which can only be learned through experience.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
The truth is this: sometimes we are witnesses to the harvests of our own sowing but sometimes we are privvy to the harvests sowed by others.
The harvests visually remind us of the obedience of its workers; workers who may not be aware of the abundance of the harvest’s yield. When it emerges, it may not even be in our lifetime or in our vicinity.
Ann Voskamp writes, “Believe it: Every tremor of kindness might erupt in a miracle on the other side of the world. http://annvoskamp.com/2015/09/when-you-just-want-to-know-its-all-going-to-be-okay/
So “keep on keepin on.” When recognition fails. When fatigue sets in. When results appear far-reaching. A harvest awaits…
My neighbor and I have some lively discussions. It’s refreshing; actually, since our demographics differ greatly. He is an 80 year old widower, father, grandfather, vet; and agnostic I am 50, wife, mom, and Christian. We talk about everything: parenting, economics, the state of the country, gardening and when the Spirit opens a window of opportunity-religion. Although his wife was connected to a church family, he had (and continues to have) no desire to learn more about the character of God nor be part of the body through whom the Holy Spirit here on Earth.
The funny thing is, we share similar philosophies regarding many issues such as parenting, lifestyle and a belief in right and wrong. The difference of course is that I see my worldview reflecting the “kingdom” on Earth in which I live. One that is supposed to radiate light to others; one that should bring a salty flavor to those who encounter it; one that turns the human ways of looking at things on its head. It is indeed a Kingdom that began as God chose to be in covenant with imperfect human beings and through whom would show the other nations that “I am your God”.
As our recent discussion turned to the issues of abortion and valuing life, I heard him passionately state his sadness and anger at the act. Personally, I believe abortion to be more than a legal issue. I think there are a plethora of social layers that must be addressed in order to decrease abortions, I stated to my neighbor, “Well, it would help if the Church would be the Church.”
He stared at me for a minute before replying, “You know…that’s a good one! That is really true. ‘If the Church would be the Church’, he mumbled to himself. “I’m going to remember that.”
When I said that, I wasn’t referring to protesters outside clinics or social media comments. I was referring to being the hands of feet of Christ who bear the image of God through actions that seek to restore and bring wholeness-providing, shelter, materials, friendship, help along the journey of giving life. Hopefully, it would result in reducing the possibility that abortion would even be considered as an option.
Because of Ray’s reaction to my statement, I am left pondering the question, “Why is he not seeing the Church?”
Who else is not drawn to it because its visibility has diminished; it’s saltiness has become stale; its light-dim?
Certainly, we, in our humanity, can’t fix everything. Earth is a taste of Heaven. But at the same time it’s just that-a taste. Shouldn’t there be something about living in God’s Kingdom that would make people walk away from life as they know it in order to be part of such a place?
Casting Crowns’ song, “We are the body” so eloquently asks the questions we as the church should be asking. (the song is based on James 2)
But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them…..There is a way?
As Jesus is the way.
In my next post, I will share some creative ways that the body of Christ’s arms reach others in their dire circumstances and show them Jesus is the way.
You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section. What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?
Well, for a few reasons. I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact, certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal. Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves. At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death. Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.
One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life. In those few words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people. These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them. Such was the case this past week.
As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s. Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders. I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.
It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds. And in the 70’s?
My gut reaction was, “Wow!” That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.
The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.
“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”
Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made. The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements) To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing. Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.
Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life
If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade. You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it. You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.
That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,
“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”
We just must embrace it. We must believe it.
What about you? What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?
Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?