I come home tonight to a quiet house. I see all of the toys that were out when I left plus a few more scattered on the floor. There are dishes in the sink. I look at the oven. Wow, I guess the leftovers actually made it in the fridge. That or the pushing toy had been placed in just the right place for Spud to jump up there and get them. He may not be smart enough to figure out that he is barking at his own reflection in the glass door every night, but he sure can figure out a way to get some people food. I look over at the sink. Yep, dishes have been added. Milk cup sitting out on the counter, now a few degrees warmer than it should be to convince me to put it back in the fridge.
I creep into the boys’ room with only the light of my phone. Mason is cuddled up in bed in his Mickey PJs. I don’t really need to kiss him on the forehead because I will probably see him in 2-3 hours anyway, but what the heck. Clint is breathing heaving in his crib, cuddled up next to the side. Why does God allow babies to make so much snot since they can’t blow their noses? Suction bulbs are great and all but what’s the point of using them if they poor little guy is so traumatized that he screams and cries and ends up creating more snot than he started with? I know he will likely wake up at some point because of his dry mouth, so I strategically place a pacifier at 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and in case he does a complete 180, 6 o’clock.
It’s 10:15. I should be in bed considering this house will be up and going in less than 7 hours. But for some reason, I’m not concerned about it. I will ignore the dishes, the warm milk, the couch cushions that are on the floor and the top cushions that are hanging over the back for a fort that was built two days ago. I will ignore the four pairs of shoes scattered around me (and the smell coming from one of them). I will ignore the picture frames that are not even close to straight; they were probably hit by the same ball that the dog and the baby have bitten pieces off of.
Tonight my heart is full. So these objects around me, although they sometimes produce chaos in my mind, don’t bother me tonight. I don’t feel the need to change or control. I don’t feel the need to be upset with the mess makers. I have spent the last 3 hours with 6 friends, all of whom come from very different walks of life. Tonight we shared our messes; some cried, some laughed; some told some semi-inappropriate jokes that would have probably been frowned upon by the more traditional churchgoer. Some (not naming names) couldn’t talk until the crazy LSU/UK game finally resulted in a Cats win. Priorities.
There’s something refreshing about sharing your life with like-minded people. Notice I didn’t say like-experienced people. We have similar needs/wants/desires, but our experiences are drastically different. I don’t know what it’s like to go to school while caring for kids, a husband and a house. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a family member to suicide. I don’t know what it’s like to go through multiple surgeries for a physical ailment only to end up worse than when it started. I don’t know what it’s like to be jobless and at the bottom of a savings account. But when I hear the details beyond the facts including the struggles, the temptations, the feelings, the raw emotions, I feel like I can identify in a small way. I’ve experienced divorce, sudden death of family members, depression, anxiety and insecurity; although my issues are different, I am linked with these women in the deepest, fullest ways despite differences in opinions, knowledge, education, age, race. We are all seeking good. We are all seeking peace. We are all seeking someone to love us, someone to accept who we are underneath the layers of bad decisions and character flaws.
Hearing their stories lets me see my life in a completely different light. I see it in the context of a much bigger picture. The picture doesn’t necessarily get clearer; it still looks like a tangled web most days, but it is at least tied up with other people who can help on the journey. My struggles feel less significant when I focus on trying to alleviate someone else’s. And the beauty of real fellowship is, once their struggles are shared, most people feel a weight removed that allows room for filling up with good things and giving to those who also need good things.
The best part of our meetings is when we can put our problems aside and talk about what we can do to benefit someone else. How can we pray for them? How can we help when they are facing surgery? What can we give when they take in 4 kids who have lost both parents to addiction?
I went to small group tonight expecting to get filled up because it was a chance to enjoy food that I didn’t have to cook, coffee I didn’t have to make, and a couple hours away from “wheels on the bus” with a 1 year old and “hide and seek” with a 2 year old who doesn’t understand that you have to close your eyes when you start counting. Instead, I got filled up with acceptance, with empathy, with pats on the back and empowerment to keep pressing on with faith that God’s got a plan for each one of us, and it certainly doesn’t include any of us figuring life out on our own.
Isn’t this what church should look like? Share your struggles, concerns, questions. Encourage each other with scripture. Pray for each other. And then figure out what you can do to help people OUTSIDE of the group. Don’t get too focused on serving yourselves when you have so much to share with a world of hurting needy people.
Guys, I know you may not prefer to meet over decaf coffee and Dove dark chocolates, but you should still connect, whatever that looks like for you. It’s the same concept.
This is my idea of church. It’s the closest thing to what I believe Jesus wants. Meeting together without intention of impressing anyone (most of us in sweatshirts and no makeup) and no desire to look like we have it all together. When we can meet together without concern of people seeing our flaws and judging us, when we stop stressing over the kids having matching outfits and perfectly curled hair, we can come together and make a real difference. We can work together to extend love to people OUTSIDE of our group. There’s power in numbers. And when those numbers come together in the name of Jesus, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
Tonight, I am so moved that I can’t sleep. I am refreshed, empowered, renewed. My heart is full. My cup is overflowing. Now I can let the love and blessings in my life spill over to those around me.