Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tender Mercies

We left our church in Monroe, Georgia just over five years ago. My husband was pastor and needed healing. He was burned out, clinically depressed, and at the end of his rope. I felt alone, exhausted, and almost hopeless. It was a horrible time. Then God in His great mercy allowed us to come to City of Refuge at First Baptist Woodstock, Georgia. COR is a ministry of First Baptist, and its mission is to offer grace, mercy, healing and restoration for pastors and their families. COR moved us to Woodstock. They found a house for us to rent.  They even paid the rent until we got on our feet. They helped us move in. And they gave us hours and hours of free (yes, FREE) counseling.

Because we were hurt and tired, our new church home required that we rest. They steadfastly refused to allow us to serve in any capacity. It was our time to be "no good" church members, we were told. They seemed insistent that we find out what it was like simply to be "loved on" by the body.

The idea of resting had some appeal to me. After all I was used to spinning more than a few plates at one time.  Yet, when VBS rolled around, I couldn't seem to let go. Maybe I could serve in some small capacity, like a teacher's assistant. Being the rule follower that I am, I went through all the right channels to seek approval for this idea. "No, nope, nada, and no way," were the answers I received.

For a while, it chaffed me that I wasn't free to serve. But then I began to consider, "Why can't I just rest? Why does it mean so much for me to work in the church?"

The answer was simple and disquieting: ministry defined me. If I wasn't doing "ministry," where was my value? I mean, I was good at it! I had vision, I had energy, I had desire, I was faithful and dependable. If I wasn't the VBS director, children's ministry leader, or children's choir director, then who was I to God? Was I important at all?

As the months went by, I began to accept the precious truth that Jesus is more interested in me as a human being than a human doing. He actually finds joy in relating to me and knowing me and in me finding my identity in Him.

"I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. 
They will be my people, and I will be their God, 
for they will return to me with all their heart."
Jeremiah 24:7

Last night I let Levi stay up too late. I was enjoying hanging out with Kevin and watching "Parks and Recreation." (Don't judge me.) When Levi is exhausted he will eventually have a meltdown. And that's exactly what happened. He was building with his marble track and it wasn't working out like he wanted. Then CRASH; Levi was crying and screaming and throwing himself down on the floor. In moments like these, moving him to bed is the obvious solution, but he was so angry about the whole marble track fiasco he couldn't calm himself. He kept trying to get up and go back to work on it even though he was too tired and upset.

I was praying for wisdom on how to calm him and I got very near him and tried singing "Jesus Loves Me".  It wasn't working. Then I tried another tune. The lyrics to this one said, "Levi, Levi, I love you. Levi, Levi, I love you. Levi, Levi, I love you because you are mine." Immediately he was soothed and looked at me and said, "Sing the song again."

I sang it again as I led him to bed where he soon fell  asleep. The moment before when Levi was in turmoil, everything seemed to be about his failure at building the marble track he imagined. You could say his identity had become wrapped up in doing a good job with the marble track. The thing that turned him was my drawing near, singing my love for him, reminding him that that love is there just because he is mine. It was the remedy his little soul needed. Coming to City of Refuge was a lot like that for me.

I served and I ministered, but that became so much more important than my God who loves me. God in His tender mercies didn't yell at me or strike me, rather He came very near to me and sang a song of love and acceptance over me. The Father reminded me that I am loved because I am His. I am not loved because I am a Sunday School teacher or VBS director, but because I belong to Him. Rest and peace spring forth and I can breathe because I am valued by the One who made me and saved me.

And, by the way, VBS succeeded without me.

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