Today, I'm cleaning and organizing the dining room area. I do that occasionally. Yesterday, I cleaned bathrooms from top to bottom. Tomorrow, before work, I am rearranging the living room. So, I am busy.
I have large wicker storage trunks in the dining room. Over the last few years, I inherited a lot of dishes from my mom, so it displaces other things I've always had. The trunks were handy to a point--one holds Christmas dishes Mom gave me long ago and other stuff for hospitality. The other one held a lot of junk that I had to go through. I found that it contained magazines and items I haven't looked at since 2004. There were also puzzles and games, that I could relocate somewhere else. And a binder filled with information about our home and appliances that we needed some time ago but didn't know where it went.
Half the magazines I threw away. The other half were actually great, including one that featured food from Provence, France. I found an old email letter that I copied and folded into it, a letter from an older far away friend who was exhorting me to change my attitude in an email I sent her before. She was pleading with me not to fall into Satan's scheme by believing lies and accusations, and be involved with people instead of holding back. Wow, I really miss her. But, I have the letter to remind me that God had brought a real friend into my life who knows me and is honest with me.
A treasure in the midst of the clutter.
I've changed in the last five years. I spoke with another old faraway friend on the phone months ago, and she was being vulnerable and transparent. I found it hard to reciprocate, to communicate on the same level. Maybe because I hadn't talked with her for so long. Maybe because I became unused to talking that deeply with anyone outside of my marriage. Maybe because in Michigan Christians aren't as open. Maybe I'm not as trusting as I once was.
The letter reminds me that I haven't always been this way, that I once was more willing to seek counsel and help. And that God provided it. As He will continue to provide always for me.
A lot of people call me "deep". But to me, what I'm saying isn't all that deep. What vulnerability is to one person isn't so much to another. A lot of people think I'm extroverted. While I do care for people, I usually call on God to help me extend myself to others. Like last night at ESL, I really had to pray that God would unleash His love through me. Although I have always considered myself an introvert with social skills, I'm finding that nothing is possible relationally without God whether one is extroverted or not.
I lurk on other church's websites. Occasionally, I listen to podcasts or messages by their pastors. Someday I will share the links. But one in particular about community I heard this morning for the first time while I discovered my old letter in the wicker trunk, it was kind of bizarre. The speaker was saying things I've always known and shared, but not too deeply. The same with the message about the Church and homosexuality I heard from the same website. I remember having a disagreement with other believers because I felt that we are moving too far from love and sharing the Gospel from authenticity, while they felt strongly about the political agenda was the best way to stand up for the truth.
So, even though I've intuitively known things that aren't mainstream in the church (being abused as a kid will sometimes teach you things that others don't know), I've never felt like an outsider. Until lately. Perhaps Satan is pushing my buttons. So, it's time to make some changes.
We are going to a small group, and we will try to be in community and have nothing to do with doing so much as being there. As my friend wrote to me, "Thea's ministry to a life, heart to heart, is what's most important-not your stove to mouth ministry...you could cook the best meal and miss the life!!!" She affirmed to me that my meals were great, but they were a means to an end, not the end itself. Although I've always known this myself, it was nice to hear someone else say it.
What more, I was also trying wriggle my way out of ministering to men alongside my husband. I was through with that, having been burnt more than once over it and finally doubting that I had any place in ministry to single men at all. In the letter, my friend once again asserted that Dennis and I were a team, that God put us "together as a husband and wife to make up for the other, to be complete as a team to minister to Him... You who I envy because of your ability to reason with folks so skillfully--I think that Dennis is just using your strengths in your team ministry." To that I realized that I was being selfish in protecting myself. That if God calls me to do anything, I should do it no matter how it is misinterpreted by others. I'm available to Him and to Him only do I do what I do. His opinion of me is much more important than anyone else's.
So, a six year old letter still reaches out and encourages me today.