We’re In This Together

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us? I can’t. It sure seems like yesterday my calendar was set to July, but now, a furious whirlwind having blown through, its pages are open to November—and December is beginning to flutter.

It’s dizzying.

Speaking of, I must confess something to you. It’s a little embarrassing. Although, having recently skimmed the introduction to The Merchant of Venice, which is somewhat built on the platform of embarrassment, I was enlightened to embarrassment’s teaching ability.

Essentially, the Sunday before last, I was (and I suppose I still am) dealing with a pretty bad cold. I woke up feeling terrible, and I think the potential for such a level of terrible was something shared with me on the homebound plane ride from D.C. the previous week. The person right behind me spent a good deal of the hour and half of the flight coughing. I’m almost certain I caught it. But anyway, right before the sermon that Sunday, I took two Dayquil liquigel capsules with the hope that they would help keep me on my toes through the rest of the service and the subsequent Bible studies afterward.

But I made a terrible miscalculation. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper I was most likely going to be finishing off the remainder of two chalices of wine. And as if that weren’t enough, earlier that morning I’d taken a Gabapentin for my back. Needless to say, by the time I got to the Benediction, I was starting to notice I was having some difficulties.

The first thing I noticed was that both of my ears began to ring while shaking hands in line. At one point, they were ringing so loudly it was difficult to hear what folks were saying. It subsided somewhat when I got into the Bible Study in that I only heard the ringing in my right ear. The next thing I noticed was that during the study there were a couple of moments when I found it somewhat difficult to breathe. Only maybe two or three times, but each time, I turned toward the doors of the ECC entryway to take a deep breath. The last, and perhaps the weirdest symptom, was that I had a hard time remembering any of your names. I don’t know if you noticed, but rather than calling on folks by name, I simply pointed. I did that because I just couldn’t seem to get the names to form. This all continued through the Adult Membership class that took place right after the Adult Bible study.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

I told Jen about it. She wasn’t too pleased with me. Her unhappiness, of course, was driven by concern.

“You should’ve said something,” she said, revealing her irritation. “You could’ve been having a stroke or something!”

“Yeah, I know,” was my reply. “But I just kinda kept on with stuff, anyway.”

Still, I haven’t even told you the awkward part of the story. What actually embarrasses me is that I made a poor decision and drove home while all of this was happening. I was just too busy “keeping on” with things to see that something was maybe more wrong with me than I was willing to admit. And therein lies the center of gravity to the point I want to make by all of this.

In 1 Corinthians 11:31, Saint Paul wrote, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” I read that in a devotion that very same morning before worship. What Paul means to say is that as sinners, we have a hard time looking at ourselves and seeing that something is wrong. We have a tendency to employ our constricted points of view in ways that see the trouble with others but doesn’t really see the trouble within ourselves. In other words, if we are to be the judges of ourselves, we won’t come under judgment. That’s just a bad way to live.

Still, God knows we do things this way. That’s one reason why He places us into the context of a worshipping community. He sets us down into the midst of a people gathered together by objectively true things. All of us are in it together, and in part, all of us are enabled to continue in it for service to one another. And as a family, it’s supposed to be somewhat natural for us to encourage and build one another up, to reprove and rebuke in love when we’re traveling a road that could be dangerous, and to keep an eye of care turned to one another so that we can be ready in times of need to help. As members of this fellowship of human need, the last thing we want to do is to hide behind a façade of “I don’t need help from anyone. I can do this alone.”

We need each other around here. I need you to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m okay. And you need me to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. We’re in this together. We’re family, and we shouldn’t be so embarrassed to say, “Hey, folks, I think we’re going to just cancel Bible Study today because, well, I’m in some sort of a mind fog and I honestly don’t recognize any of you.”

Well, maybe I wouldn’t say it that way. But, hey, you know me.

In summary, don’t feel as though you must go it alone. You don’t have to. Look to your Christian family. Trust them enough to know that they love you and will be ready to help.

What Crawls Underneath

Colette, the early twentieth century French author, wrote in her book Cheri (which, by the way, I don’t necessarily suggest you read): “A door slamming makes one jump, but it doesn’t make one afraid. What one fears is the serpent that crawls underneath it.”

Now, even though I wouldn’t endorse Colette’s volume, I do appreciate the intention of the words, and here’s why. In a simple way, they’re meant to relay that there are plenty of things that startle us in this life, things that cannot necessarily harm us. But we also know that sometimes there are things behind the door that can. What’s often most terrifying are those things that get through the door even as we press ourselves against it trying to keep them out—things like illness, broken relationships, and so many other things that do indeed happen outside of our control.

I’m starting to think that the image of the snake slithering under the door is becoming the more common of the terrors we face in this life. So much in our lives and world seem to be spinning furiously beyond our ability to keep up, and as a result, we feel like we’re hanging on. But with that, I want to tell you what Pastor Heckert tells me when I get to feeling that way—when I feel like I have too much to do and not enough time or energy to accomplish it all. (And by the way, I know when I get to feeling like this because I begin adding to my prayers a request for a cloning device so I can be in multiple places at once, as well as a teleportation device so that my clones can swiftly zip to these places and get their assigned tasks completed).

First, he reminds me that I don’t have to keep up. God is in control. This always reminds me of what Pope John Paul was once quoted as saying: “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going to bed.” Second, he reminds me that even as I may think I’m losing grip on Christ and His promises, the Lord is holding onto me with both hands—and His grip is the strongest. And lastly, he reminds me that quite often it’s those times when I have absolutely no control over the situation that I learn to trust Christ more intently. And he’s absolutely right. It’s during those times when it seems like the situation couldn’t get any more hopeless—that there doesn’t seem to be a way out—that we see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all its glory as the ultimate deliverance from the terrors of this world. With this Gospel beaming in and through us, all terrible things behind the door—even the things that get through—have no footing for snatching us from the One who loves us enough to die in our place. In this, there’s always hope.

Take this Gospel message into yourself today. Savor it. It gives life, and it’s yours as one baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.