A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called “It’s just a thing“. This post was important to me because in it I reflected on a conversation that I had with Margaret, my wife, and this conversation was very important to me. I wish I could say that we’re perfectly able to separate God from “things” now, but we’re not. We’re still learning how to follow God and not follow the many things (even good things) that come up in our lives.
I should be writing about the Saturday evening meeting with other believers at our house. I may write about that later, but for now, I’m thinking about a discussion that I had with my wife Saturday morning.
We talked about how easy it is to “play” being a Christian, even among friends like those who would come to our house in just a few hours. We talked about some of our struggles with our relationship with God. We talked about wanting to hide those struggles so that others will not know about them (we are supposed to be a pastor and a pastor’s wife, after all). We talked about how difficult it is sometimes to study Scripture. We talked about times when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling.
Then, my wife, Margaret, said something very powerful for me. She said (paraphrasing), “Sometimes, I get tired of talking about the church. Sometimes, I need to talk about God – who He is and what He’s done – so that I can understand Him. I need to know God more before I think about what He wants to do with the church.”
She thought that I was going to be upset about this, because she knows how much I love the church and how much I love to study the church. Of course, my love and concern for the church derives from my love and understanding of God, but that is beside the point.
She was surprised when I agreed with her. Our understanding and relationship with God must come before our understanding of the church.
I think it was at this point that I realized something very important. My wife and I have been involved with organized local churches for many, many years. When have been involved with children and youth ministries, Sunday school classes, men and women’s ministries, Sunday morning activities, Sunday night activities, prayer meetings, evangelism programs, service programs, preaching, teaching, singing, planning, organizing, fund raising… almost every (perhaps every) aspect of organizing and running a local church.
But, for the first time in our lives, we have had to ask ourselves what God wants from us. Before, we have always been told what God wants from us, and we have been challenged, encouraged, urged, influenced, and cajoled into being involved and committed with local church ministries, all the while being promised that this is what God wants from us and commands us to do. The people who were telling us this believed with all their hear that this is what God wanted from them and from us. We did not have time to stop and ask if this is truly what God wants from us, because we were so busy doing things.
We were so busy doing things…
And, that’s just what they were… things. This is what I realized this morning while I was talking with my wife. We had been so busy doing things for so long that we had almost forgotten that God is not interesting in things. God is interested in us and other people… relationships.
Don’t misunderstand me… I don’t think these things were designed as things. But, they became things. Things to do. Things to prepare. Things to instruct. Things to follow. Things to believe. Things to support. Things to finance. Things…
We should teach other believers… but teaching can become a thing. We should preach the gospel… but preaching can become a thing. We should meet with other believers… but Sunday morning events (and Saturday evenings spent with friends) can become a thing.
Even quiet times… devotional times… prayer times… can become things. And things are not God.
A church that meets in a building near us was having a fund raiser. We had brunswick stew there for lunch. The people were raising money to pay for chairs and tables for their new fellowship hall. Several times they pointed out to us how nice their new fellowship hall was. My wife and I looked around the fellowship hall, and then looked at one another. “It’s just a thing.”