Living in a community would be so much easier if it weren’t for those people. You know, the highly opinionated mom full of suggestions. The grandma continually reminding me that things were simpler in her day. The single gal who knows exactly how to mother her non-existent kids. And that elderly usher who’s so excited to see my children, that my four-year old hides beneath the church pew every Sunday. What I mean to say is I wish I could choose the people in my church.
But I suppose I’m limiting myself to just a handful of people, the ones that make me feel competent and bold and loved. After all, isn’t that what we mean when we say that we don’t particularly like someone? That we don’t like the version of ourselves that comes out when around them?
Yes, when teaching bible stories to three-year-olds, I feel authoritative and talented. But around those sassy high school students, I’m so outdated and silly. Some adults encourage my bravery. Still others gift me with things to worry about that I didn’t know existed. Some mothers have a talent for drawing out my rude side, and others make me feel inept with their abundant talents.
I’d really like to say it’s their fault. But I think my dislike of their company is actually an indication that all is not well inside me. Parts of my heart aren’t dancing to the right tune. Some of my gears don’t fit into the cogs next to me. And as much as I’d rather not work with those cogs, they’re part of this machine.
I’m speaking of the men and women on God’s team. The other members of this body, “united together, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another” (Lewis, 165). These are the ones that I must learn to work with, yes, and even to love. Because they together are the “one really adequate instrument for learning about God” (Lewis, 165).
It is only when this crowd of distinct, glorious, god-like beings are knit together in love, that we uniquely reflect the glorious, immeasurable, multi-faceted person of God. “The fullness of him who fills all in all” (NASB, Eph 1:23). How else but through His image-bearers do I see God’s grace, lovingkindness, mercy, patience, and forbearance played out in the day to day? How else am I to reflect God’s greatness but through this polishing of my mirror, that is, these jostling, aggravating, and often humbling relationships?
Surrendered. Tested. And refined. Until one day they may say of me too:
“. . . She never found fault with you, never implied
Your wrong by her right; and yet men at her side
Grew nobler, girls purer, as through the whole town
The children were gladder that pulled at her gown.
None knelt at her feet confessed lovers in thrall;
They knelt more to God than they used—that was all;
If you praised her as charming, some asked what you meant,
But the charm of her presence was felt when she went.
The weak and the gentle, the ribald and rude,
She took as she found them, and did them all good . . .” (Browning, 154)
And if this becomes the case in my heart, then I think I will find my circle of friends growing larger and larger, encompassing more and more people whom I find delightful and interesting. Like God. I will find their gifts as a testimony of His abundance. And I will find their flaws as curious tales of how God will work grace in them as He has in me.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. "My Kate." One Hundred and One Famous Poems. Compiled by Roy J. Cook. Chicago: Reilley & Lee Publishers, 1958. 154. Print.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1972. Print.