Sometimes ‘getting it’ can lead to frustrations. Seeing something new that no one else sees or cares to see is frustrating. Trying to describe what you are thinking, feeling, realizing, whatever and getting a blank stare or a pat on the head is, well, frustrating. Not that this is something new that no one knows. Plenty of people get this. It is new to me and not something many of the people I know are seeing.
That’s how I have been feeling lately. Church, worship, gathering together, whatever you want to call it is difficult. I don’t think it has ever been easy. Paul writes, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong” Galatians 2.11.
In Acts 15.36-40 we find this, “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.”
Community is tough. We make mistakes, we fall short, we disappoint our friends, and any number of other social missteps. We expect people to be better than us and when they fail to meet our expectations, we get angry or hurt. We often leave the situation because of these experiences.
Henry Nouwen writes, “Within the discipline of life in community are the twin gifts of forgiveness and celebration that need to be opened and used regularly. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness means that I continually am willing to forgive the other person for not fulfilling all my needs and desires. Forgiveness says, ‘I know you love me, but you don’t have to love me unconditionally, because only God can do that.’ I too must ask forgiveness for not being able to fulfill other people’s total needs, for no human being can do that” Spiritual Direction, 119.
He later writes, “Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another ‘seventy-seven times’ (Matthew 18.22)” Spiritual Direction, 120.
How much of our discontent in community would be abated if we simply practiced forgiveness?
How much closer would we be to having the Image of Christ be formed in us through the discipline of forgiveness?
Community is difficult and quitting is easy. One forms the Image of Christ, the other is already formed within us.
When people leave church because they got their feelings hurt, I get frustrated. Frustrated because there is no better opportunity to practice the discipines of the Christ-like life. No better opportunity to exercise grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. No better opportunity to relate to our Lord and Savior that suffered much more than hurt feelings, and still loved us and stuck with us.
I’m not mad at people, although frustrations can easily lead to that, I am simply frustrated that a great opportunity is being missed to align our lives and spirits with the risen Christ.