Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12
I have heard stories about men who have gone to war and come home certain that there is no loving God, no hope of salvation. When you see the carnage and evil of battle and marvel at the new and creative ways we have invented to visit hell on each other, it makes me wonder how anyone can in that situation, not abandon faith. The certainty of evils ‘triumph and mercys’ abandonment might be everywhere in a person’s life after that.
I do believe in evil, I believe it does appear in circumstances like war, but it can sneak up on you as well, peacefully, patiently, without apparent notice. You may not take notice as it infiltrates your attitudes without fanfare. I know this because, I watched as I grew farther and farther away from prayer and allowed doubt, fear and anger to enter.
Doubt entered and I grew away from the comforting rituals which bring me closer to God. And then fear. I watched as four people close to me died in rapid succession. I was reeling from funeral after funeral, most having little to do with God or any mention of salvation. I could not understand how these good people could go to hell. Truth is I still do not understand.
And then anger. If God is condemning these people who have lived hardworking, caring and kind lives to hell, then I simply do not understand His values. It seems pointless and arrogant to think we are the only ones worthy of Heaven. My fear tells me that all forms of absolutism are dangerous and serves to minimize the other to the point where it does not matter if we turn our backs, or indeed, kill them.
You see you do not escape experiences like this without scars. It has allowed a gradual shifting of what you could consider normal to the point where normal has little meaning. I worry that the church itself is wandering, as cathedrals with encumbering debt are built to attract larger and larger audiences, rather than congregations, and larger incomes with limited money for ministries. There are people who notice this and throw out the hope and love of God as hypocritical.
There have been observations in my past made by people who get close to me that I think too much, worry too much, feel too much. I think they are right and for me that is just the way God made me. I can observe and analyze and in the process be bumped off course or find myself paralyzed in the process. Still I haven’t lost all hope.
Over the years since being at Riverside Church, I have wondered what fellowship was really about. Originally I thought that fellowship referred to worshiping together, maybe socializing together. I wondered if this was just a differentiation between various sects in the Baptist church. However recently I have had a very real, practical lesson in fellowships’ intent and definition.
I stayed away from church, confused and unhappy with my recent observations. I was away so long that people began to notice and began to contact me. Observations and queries like “have you gone off the rails”? were offered. Others wanted to say they missed me and still others who wanted to drag me back even if I was kicking and screaming (in the most Christian way of course). This past group would be typified by a wonderful conversation with a person whose initials are Kristine Knight but I won’t mention her name in case of embarrassment.
She pointed out the fact that we are family and sometimes family feel closer or farther away depending on the situation. I had decided that I would tentatively (very tentatively) come back in the New Year, but she would have none of it and at spiritual gunpoint I came back in time for Christmas.
I once heard a person say that sometimes you can feel God’s arms around you solidly holding you in comfort and joy. I wonder if I was allowed a glimpse of that very thing at that moment. I have been blessed by true fellowship beyond a title, beyond worshiping together.
Sometimes I wonder if God does not grow weary of me growing weary of Him. I do not feel that I stand in any better stead with Him when I am in the pew or not, however when family calls in the most gentle, caring, and loving way, and you rejoin the family of God, how can you lose?