Remember last week when I said that the last couple weeks have been emotional ones?
Some have not been compelling examples of Christian life.
Earlier this week we entered a new phase in our state. As COVID restrictions loosen, we are all heaving a collective sigh of relief, sharing cautious optimism. We can now go to a ballgame and share indoor space with more of our friends and neighbors.
Except when we can’t.
During the past several weeks my family has been helping my mother-in-law transition to assisted living. We have all embarked on shopping trips and moving adventures as we’ve gotten her set up in a new apartment. Curtains were hung with care, pictures neatly arranged, cupboards stocked with snacks. Team Nowadnick has come and gone at will into and out of my mother-in-law’s building as we’ve taken care of this and that.
Monday I waltzed into the facility, smiled, and said I was there to see Phyllis. When I leaned in for my temperature check, the receptionist looked at me with alarm and backed me out the door.
Not appreciating the special privileges we’d been given, she reminded me that Phyllis already had a visitor and shut the door.
I opened the door and asked to speak with the manager.
I was not at my finest. For months we’ve all tried to navigate the new normal, honoring the restrictions put into place for our safety and the safety of others, but Monday I was over it. We were in the last stages of Phyllis’ transition and I had no time for rules.
You’ll often hear me refer to Titus, that letter the apostle Paul wrote to his co-worker in the faith, that letter about being a compelling example of Christian life.
In his letter, Paul gives us instructions on how to engage with our communities. He opens Chapter 3, reminding us to “to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
He asks us to be ideal citizens, to be compelling examples of Christian life.
That was not me on Monday.
Too often I’ve not been a compelling example of Christian life. Good grief! I wrote an entire book on driving antics that included two citations for speeding through our neighborhood school zone (sad, but true!), failing to stop at a stop sign (yep!), and my failure to yield (uh huh!).
In my first book, there was a hot mic moment. A hot mic moment at Easter!
All have been times I was not obedient, not doing good, and not considerate.
I want to be a compelling example of Christian life, a compelling example of God’s saving grace—not just when it’s convenient, when it’s easy, when it suits me, but also when it’s inconvenient, when it’s hard, when it not all about me. I want to be an ideal citizen, not just when the rules work for me, but when the rules work for all of us.
I have marveled at our pastor this past year.
Pastor Todd has carefully followed the state’s guidelines in order to create a safe place for us to worship, in order to minister in a way that honors and respects each one of us, especially those who might be more vulnerable to the virus.
We have all groaned with him as he’s navigated changes, put into place cleaning regimens, learned to connect virtually in ways we never could have imagined.
And when we’ve all been at our weariest, we’ll look at a FB live post and see the number of views far beyond our normal Sunday reach. Christian life as we’d never imagined it!
Just doing what we needed to do, God found a way to share His message in ways we couldn’t, in ways we’d never thought of before COVID.
When you and I share words of loving kindness, we connect our God of loving kindness to the moment, to the situation, to the interaction, the relationship in ways we’d never imagined.
And we get to get compelling examples of Christian life.
I cringe thinking one day, my mother-in-law will be proudly explaining to that young receptionist that I do Friday morning talks with God on FB and she’ll have her own “What!” response. She’ll look at Phyllis and reply, “Yes, I’ve met your daughter-in-law. At the front door.”
Does Paul want us to be beholden to tyrants? Ignoring the oppressed? Condoning injustice, ignorance, and inequality?
No. He wants us to obey, do good, make peace. He wants us to be ideal citizens who support and encourage those around us, who respect the jobs we’ve all been tasked to do. He wants us to be compelling examples of Christian life.
And then in a letter to the Corinthians, he reminds us that love honors those around us. Love is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails.
Yes, Christian life.
Remember the classic movie, Love Story?
There’s an oh-so-very cringe-worthy line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But that’s not true.
Love for my mother-in-law and love for those around her means I will be saying I’m sorry to a young receptionist who was just doing her job. And my exact words will be, “Please forgive me.”
I love that we get to do life together–Christian life.
I love that we can come together to celebrate those moments that go oh-so-very well. I also love that we can learn from those moments that don’t. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this time with you, to do Christian life together.
We find ourselves in times of change, times of stress, unforeseen times.
Navigating our new normal has not been easy.
Lord, we pray that You would help us be citizens
who share Your love and faithfulness in all that we do and say.
In Your name we pray, amen.
Deanna is the author of two books, Fruit of My Spirit and Signs in Life.
Bouquet of Wisdom is coming soon!