Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I'm Learning: Community

I've been cleaning up my Google documents and ran across something I wrote about two years ago and wanted to share part of it. It's a lesson that has been reinforced by my friendships in Chattanooga and as I've learned to give others the opportunity to serve me instead of always being too prideful to be anything other than self-reliant. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote during my time at Preston Taylor Ministries:

I am learning to depend on Christ in a way that I didn't think I needed to before--after all, it was easier in a middle class lifestyle with a safe home, generous pay check, and established routine to not depend on Him as much, feeling pretty self-sufficient. It's funny how a $400 a month paycheck, new environment and church home, and job in the 'hood made me remember very quickly who I need to depend on on a hourly basis.

Through this experience, I am learning how much I need others....their prayers, understanding, and love. I have been so humbled and blessed by an outpouring of encouragement, love, and support over the last few months; it feels very special to be a part of this community of believers.

I am learning what community really looks like as I watch two single moms combine forces and live together in order to just get by; or a single mom of three children take on two more upon their mother's death; or my new church family host nine homeless people every Wednesday night throughout the winter with people taking the time to really love and know the these individuals.

And I've realized how different this type of service in community is than just handing over a used coat or money--while handing over a coat is satisfying and helpful, it doesn't give us the opportunity to be transformed by Christ through those we are serving. In order to be transformed by Christ and in His image we desperately need community and relationships. Our creator made us for both.

In addition to increased prayer and reliance on Christ, I am seeing Him in the most unexpected places and people.

One example is Rick, one of the drug dealers who hangs out on our street. A few weeks ago a staff member's husband came to get something out of the building for her late at night. Rick confronted him, with a hand gun and all, wanting him to identify himself and explain why he was on Preston Taylor Ministries' property. Sure the husband was afraid and Rick's means might not be ideal, but Rick's immediate presence helped explain why our building has never been broken into, covered with graffiti, or otherwise messed with.

And if God can provide protection for His work and His kingdom through a gun toting drug dealer and redeem his actions, then surely He can use us for His kingdom too.

p.s. I'm grateful for friends like Chasie who encourage me to do wild and crazy things like try long layers instead of just getting my usual trim :) And so grateful for my friend Casey's wedding (and marriage) on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Best Case Scenario

I'm not sure exactly why, but on Sunday it struck me that I never wonder if the best case scenario of a situation, specifically a romantic relational situation such as my relationship with Clay, will play out in the best possible way. Instead I wonder "what if he isn't who he says he is?" or "how could he possibly be this crazy about me if he really knew me?"

I never think "what if he's as fantastic as I think he is, and we're totally right for each other?"

It's as if I am mentally preparing for the worst case scenario, bracing myself, so that somehow it won't hurt if things don't work out. And in doing so, I'm denying myself the full joy of the present. It's a dumb, pessimistic way to live, and as I was doing my Bible study this weekend, I realized it was a failure to trust that the Lord will protect and comfort me and ultimately use all things for my good and His glory. My experience has shown me that God is always faithful, yet I try to preemptively protect myself. And in addition, to denying myself the fun, excitement, and hope that life offer, it makes it challenging for Clay to fully invest in our relationship. Sometimes he feels like I'm looking for a flaw and just waiting to be disappointed. And he's right.

Funny, I wrote a similar post about 18 months ago, and in reading that post and reflecting on how I felt then, I see that I'm making progress in this regard. And I'm reminded of how easy and mostly joy-filled this relationship with Clay is. It amazes me that I can spend so much time with him and not have my introverted, irritated ways come out at all. I feel so blessed. Yet another reason to be more hopeful, imagine the best case scenario, and be intentional about delighting in the Lord and trusting that He is in control and loves me more than I can fathom.

p.s. I'm grateful for my Bible study group.