Everything in me was turning inside out. I couldn't handle it, manage it or live with it. I really only had one option - tell my husband. So I told him everything. His name, our connection, our encounter and all of the following conversations we'd had. I told him that I was sad and grieving, that I felt a strong physical connection - the whole 9. Joe was calm. So calm and gentle. His first comment was "I completely understand how we ended up here." That night we left nothing unsaid. The end result of that night was that I told Joe I didn't know what I was going to do or not do. We spent days existing in an awkward, dark space. Every few days we would have another long talk - checking pulses so-to-speak. My conversations with Code-Red continued. I was in more agony. I had told Joe in my anger toward him that I wasn't even going to pray about it - that if he wanted a miracle so-be-it but I didn't even want one.
Again, every few nights he might ask "have you talked to him?". Me "yes". And that just went on for a bit. We never saw each other (again, thank God for long distance). One night after a particularly long and healthy talk with Joe, he asked me for a hug. I quite literally could have punted him to Mars - I did not want a hug. It was about 12 years too late for that. Day after day I watched as his heart broke more and more.
One evening he came home from work and I was in the laundry room. He walked past me and gave me a very heavy sideways smile. He told me he had been fasting and praying - he looked like he was about to fall over. He fasted for several days and I hadn't even noticed. I think I had cried most of that day.
Here's the thing.... I was either going to have an affair and not start seminary, or I was going to start seminary and not have an affair - and I had a deadline, literally, with the seminary end of things.... and it was coming up on that Friday. We stood there in the laundry room - he looked so broken. I hugged him. It was the boldest move either one of us had made in years. When that hug ended, I looked him in the eyes and told him, "I'm trying", and he replied "me too". The first tear I had ever seen in his eyes just rolled down his cheek. Joe finally cried. And it pierced me.
Friday came - and I chose seminary, sent Code-Red an email and let him know that I was backing out. I registered for school and paid tuition.
You wanna know something interesting about temptation from a biblical perspective? When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days - guess who led Him there? I always thought it was Satan, but it wasn't. Matthew 4:1 says, 1"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted a by the devil." Do you see that? The Spirit LED JESUS into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED by the devil. Ironically, in my spiritual formations class we studied this quite a bit - that we are always at war with our flesh. I will believe until the day that I die that I went through something that literally had to be "fleshed out". I believe fully that this was part of God's plan (not Satan's) - to get Joe and me where we needed to be so that I can be more effective in ministry to others, and so that he and I can be united the way husband and wife are meant to be.
Friday afternoon Joe came home from work. He had made it a practice every day to lean down and kiss my forehead while I was sitting in my favorite chair. I knew he was trying to show his commitment to us. I allowed it even though it felt so awkward to me. But on this day, when he leaned forward to kiss my forehead, I gave him my lips. And we made out for about 45 minutes.
It has been more than a year now. A very hot and heavy, smokin' sexy reunification that I would never have believed. We've been completely restored, but better. I wish I could sit here and write out all the ways we've changed, all the ways that we are better than before. But the best of all is that our children are seeing all of this love - they catch us kissing constantly. We hide nothing from the kids..... we are vocal and flirty. We are finally modeling unity and affection. It is sweeter than anything I have ever known.
We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Tomorrow we fly to Belize for a long weekend. Joe and I haven't been on a plane together in 18 years. We haven't traveled alone. In discussing our packing, Asher said - "You know you guys aren't even going to need clothes!" And he's probably right. I love this - not just that we are modeling a loving relationship in front of them but that we are also exposing them to healthy and positive views about marital sex. We are brand new people.
Joe and I have made a commitment to speak out every day about our love for each other, and we will kiss at least once per day. That may sound silly, but we don't want to lose what we have nor become lazy. We have pet names - and we wear them out. We have code words for our text messages. We hold hands. But my favorite thing .... my favorite thing is when I tell him I love him, he simply says "I know." Because he does... he really knows.
*** Are you and your spouse harboring hurts? Has it formed a gulf between you? Is your marriage as dead as mine was, or is your heart as frozen? I beg you to see the hope that there is for you and to take some bold steps. You loved him or her before - actively pursue those memories. I believe in this sort of resurrection and I hope you will too. If you want to - send me a private message and I will pray for you. I've received so many messages already..... and that is why - the only reason to bring this public. This is my public praise for the One who restores. Our story is a miracle, friends. I praise God for His mercy and grace and love. I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit leading me to flesh out the muck. And I'm thankful He specifically used Mr. Code-Red, because while I cannot go into it more, it was special circumstances, and I'm grateful for the part he played. He was used to save my marriage. I'm praying for his marriage too.
Joe doesn't cry. Never has. All of the moving, happy, scary or touching moments in our lives have worn on his face the same. He laughs regularly - but he doesn't lose control of his laughter like I do. He's impossible to read. This has bothered me. I'm talking deaths in the family - no tears. Shawn's diagnosis of Down syndrome - no tears. When I told him back in the miserable years that I didn't want to be married - no tears. It has been difficult for me to know what and how he feels. His answer is always the same. He's fine. Like I said previously - no fun to fight with.
I got mad at him a few times in the spring of 2018...
For about 3 of the 12 "roommate years", I was miserable. More than miserable. I was more lonely and empty than if I had been single - so "single" felt like the best option. Off and on over those years, I did everything a woman who is planning to leave does. I crunched numbers, sharpened my skills, looked for 2 small houses - one for him and one for me. I was so very cold toward Joe. I still remember possibly the meanest thing I have ever said to him. In a moment of anger, I challenged him with "Do you know why I let you do so much around here?" I was referring to cooking and laundry.... "because it's all I get out of this marriage." He would retreat - and nothing would get resolved. I share this detail, and the anger that masked my pain because someone out there needs to know - it is better to be brave and fight than to be quiet and hide. Sweeping life under the rug isn't a remedy for suffering. Brooms and blindfolds are ineffective tools for rebuilding. There were 3 thoughts that haunted me daily during those years ...
For the most part - I intend to avoid using "Christianese" in telling our story, but this first paragraph has to be an exception. If you aren't a Christian - please stick around.
It's going to be difficult for me to share our story because it exposes bits of both of us that bring us shame. There are only two good reasons for us to agree to this exposure. First - Joe and I both know (as do a few of our friends) that our marriage experienced a genuine miracle. I am dead serious - and so I hope to shed some insight into the grace and love of our glorious God so that His love may be known to more people. And second - to offer hope to anyone else still in the trenches of where we were. So, here we go.
I've never met a better man than Joe - and that has never stopped being true for me. He has the gentlest spirit and a constant undercurrent of kindness. He is a poet - no, really, and a painter. He will always lean toward the beat-up truck, old gray dog and the song sung out of key. You can have his shirt and his money, his time and attention. You can have it all. He will bring it to you or do it for you. He is so many good things. The two things he can't do are...
I've had a lot of lifetime to think about friendships. The more air I breathe, the more that I'm convinced God designed us to be in relationship. We need and want our people. We need and want our people to remain our people. Shifts hurt. When the intricate details that hold us together begin to fray and unravel, something of the earth seems upside down. How do we fall apart? How do we stay together?
This waltz with friends, when it is smooth, it makes everything else somehow okay. God uses friends to fill some of our empty holes, to be our guard rails and our watchmen. He makes a way for our pinky promises and secret winks to give fresh life to our giggles and add weight to our hearts. Even one friend can burst a heart wide open.
But life can change in a day. Sadness slips in under the door, evil molests the weak corners of the mind and smiles turn to trembling in the darkness. One day is my turn, the next day is yours. The ebbs and flows will ebb and flow - who knows what's up or down? When grief cries out to God, He sends along a friend to stand watch over you.
*The photo above is of my two horses, Ursie (lying down) and Jolene, standing watch. They are herd animals.... when one needs to rest, the other stands nearby to guard and protect. The best of times are when we can all be fully upright. But sometimes we need to rest and other times we need to watch. I'm so thankful for the friends I have in this waltz.
It was one rough arff.
At 4 am in Italy this morning, the song coming through the open window of my b&b farm bedroom was of an old, tired dog. I'd been sleeping well up until that point. At first, I wasn't even sure it was the sound of a dog but soon I decided that it was, the occasional gruff arffff of one old and bored. He remarked about 10 times over a 30-minuted period and then silence lulled me back to sleep.
One hour later, singing through the same windows were the morning songs of a variety of birds. Birds in foreign places is one of my very favorite sounds because their songs are not American in any way. They are singing of a different life altogether, but occasionally I hear hints of familiarity. It's also one of my favorite things about this world as a whole. So different. So same. If only everyone understood this. One bird in particular this morning was composing such a song in my ear that it nearly made me cry. It was so beautiful because it was so different. Such a gift to me.
Yesterday for me was filled with traveling shenanigans. Planes, trains and automobiles. Wrong trains but right places. I'm driving a spunky little car with 1/2 a map - meaning - the place I'm staying is literally off the map, but the map got me to the edge, both literally and emotionally. I must have missed a sign somewhere - probably while dodging all the haphazard norm of Italian streetcar drivers. Then I couldn't stop to ask directions because there is no parking here. I swear, if they could, these locals would park on top of each other. Only a sweet miracle from Jesus was going to save me, and He indeed did ....(again).... Not only a parking place, but a sweet Italian woman about my age who helped me find my way back to the edge of the map so I could start again. I found the sign I had originally overlooked and then eventually made it to my stopping place - the home of the songs of Italian birds and dogs.
Today is so new and so fresh. The most glorious morning breakfast spread I have ever seen. I'm even braving new foods. I spent time in the fresh air on the stunning grounds this morning and looked in wonder and awe at the views of Tuscan countryside - a dream come true. I couldn't be more grateful to be here.
Yesterday was my one gruff arff.
Today is my Italian bird song.
**Thank you to my Momma who helped me finance this trip before I return back to Zim to see my other family. And to my husband who has worked extra shifts to help pay for all of our missions trips this season. I love my people. Oh and me - I worked hard too. And to those friends and family who bought jasper or donated to my mission fund (the Zim portion) thank you again and again.
Suffering belongs to us. It’s part of what we own as believers in Christ. Not that we have to suffer but that we get to as part of our forming discipline. The apostle Paul shows us the beauty of suffering in his letter to the Romans.
Romans 8:16-18 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In Philippians chapter 3, Paul describes to the church at Philippi that his own desire is to experience a suffering for the sake of Christ so that he can also attain the resurrection from the dead. Paul seems to have digested the likeness quotient - to be like Christ and to live in Jesus, to walk in His way is to be willing to suffer as He suffered. Obviously Paul knew and we know that we cannot suffer in the very same way because we can’t process anyone’s salvation paperwork and we cannot save humanity, but, can’t we preach and defend the word? Can’t we agree that our faith is a declaration to uphold the word and to be willing to die for it? The word is Jesus and Jesus is the word. John chapter 1 tells us that the Word became flesh. To me, this means that the Word is alive and that there is no difference between God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Word. Our suffering serves a purpose; to promote the saving grace of God. Who gets to rise without first dying? What motivates a person to walk in faith and to serve the Kingdom cause if we don’t first recognize that suffering is a meaningful part of our journey?
So, when I’m reading a book (or essay) like this one and the writer promotes pain like it’s a good thing, I begin to wonder if they had a pitcher of margaritas for breakfast. If you don’t back it up I’d really rather not hear it. So, for the sake of supporting this argument, I don’t mind exposing some of my sufferings that have led to my passion for the Kingdom and my desire to help lead others to the hope that is in Christ and embrace the suffering that comes with it.
Even though my father is still alive, I have spent the majority of my life fatherless. A passion for the fatherless arose in me and led me to advocate for orphans. Over my lifetime, I’ve been abandoned by two of my best friends. The rejection and pain opened my eyes to the needs of others to live in close relationship with one another. As a result, I am a much better friend than I used to be and this translates into the strengthening of bonds. I know how to choose my community and I better know how to honor the communities that also choose me. I’ve been broken free from the chains of greed and learned how to be generous. I’ve overcome divorce with a new opinion of marriage, love and commitment. And while there are numerous other examples from my 46 years (obviously far too many to mention) I’ve also been well acquainted in my inner circles with depression, addiction, death, wayward children, abortion, deceit, and fraud. And I would walk it all again for the sake of Christ. I would live it again to attain the resurrection from death into an eternal life, and to bring along some friends, enemies and strangers.
When God chose Saul to be renamed, to be given a new identity in Christ, He had a purpose. Saul was a Jew who had vehemently denied Jesus as the Messiah and fought with determination to ruin him, but God had a different plan. God revealed himself to Saul and gave him the mission to preach the word among the gentiles even though Saul had been made famous for crucifying believers.
In Acts chapter 9 we are given the story of Saul’s conversion and his new name, Paul. In his travels preaching against the gospel, Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. His encounter would rock his world and change everything. Powerfully, Jesus would give Paul his new assignment and make him into the primary author of the New Testament. The Lord chose Paul, (Saul), the man who had fought most violently against Jesus and reshaped him into the leading voice for Jesus. And in this process, Acts 9:15-16 says the Lord proclaimed “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
I have pondered this a bit …. “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” This may not be theologically sound - I really don’t know …. But I almost wonder, did Paul have to suffer because he had first inflicted so much suffering against the very people that he had opposed? Because he had so ferociously brought on the suffering of others that he now had to suffer equally? Or did Jesus want Paul to have a clear understanding of the ways Jesus had suffered for the gospel? And just exactly what kind of suffering?
I do believe this, that there is no such thing as wasted pain. Suffering and trials are meant to shape us to be more like Christ and ultimately to serve His kingdom purpose. Pain isn’t something that we should abhor, reject, dread or begrudge, because it is a component in our faith journey that has the potential to be the very most transformative. I’ll admit that it’s no fun. I’ll even admit that pain has the potential to derail everything. The key isn’t to avoid it, but to be open to finding gratitude and joy in the midst of the trials because Jesus is in the middle. He is right there and He is the Prince of Peace. He is constantly present in the heart of the believer. His Spirit is dwelling in our innermost depths and He is working all things out for the good of those who love Him. These are promises that He is made. He WILL heal our broken hearts. He WILL restore our joy. He WILL use our trials to mature our faith. And at the end of our final breath, He WILL bring us home.
Suffering is a form of fellowship with the Lord. It connects us to His mission. It unites us with His purpose … to bring us all out of suffering.
Heartache breeds compassion. Suffering breeds mercy.
Let us let love suffer.
Lord of all creation, only You know. Some of us already understand this facet of faith but many do not. I pray for them, Lord, that you would powerfully move to stir their hearts and minds to know that you are real and to believe that you are the provider of peace in the midst of our trials. Give them that peace, Lord, so that their knowing will run deep and their hearts will never turn from you. Use our suffering to Your glory. Help us to know that our pain is never wasted. In Jesus, Amen.
LET LOVE SUFFER
My guess is that you didn’t see this blog heading and squeal in excitement. The notion of suffering divides the saints and it is downright offensive to the skeptics. Suffering and the reality of it is precisely what makes large numbers of seekers keep their feet on the ground because it is hard to fathom what benefit could exist in a realm where one would leap into an agreement to suffer. Yet, it’s biblical.
This feels like a great opportunity for me to remind you that I didn’t go to seminary and I lack any credible degree in this arena, but I also maintain an authority by the Holy Spirit to share here because suffering is what led me straight to Jesus. Well, that’s likely true for many of us, but specifically, my heart was opened to Jesus upon hearing the verses about suffering in the book of James. He got my attention through these very verses and they are what led me to leap….and never look back.
James chapter 5 displays the connection between suffering and faith and attributes the need for suffering in our lives so that we can experience God’s compassion and mercy. This helped me so much as I was transitioning from a non-believer to a believer, that I couldn’t have known His compassion and mercy (and all out redeeming love) if I hadn’t walked through periods of suffering in my own life.
James chapter 1 describes the outcome of our faith being tested through various trials and suffering, that it will lead us to a mature relationship with God through Jesus whereby we cannot lack anything. Similarly, this helps me to know that nothing I ever walk through, not any amount of suffering can strip me from all that I have in Christ. In Him I cannot be robbed, nor can I lose, nor will I miss out on anything. Suffering through trials and trouble is what gets me to that level.
Ask yourself this question, “who do you cheer for”? A couple of years ago I attended the bridge ceremony at our Elementary School because my 5th grader was becoming a 6th grader and would transition to middle-school at the end of summer. It’s a rite of passage and is ceremoniously acknowledged with a bridge crossing. I managed to hold myself together well without tears, not even the threat of tears. But when sweet Ryan crossed the bridge into 6th grade, I lost it. Ryan isn’t mine. He’s an awesome little boy with Down syndrome. (Thank God I have one of these angels of my own already.) Ryan has several challenges including speech and sensory sensitivities. When he was very young he required ankle braces to help him walk and he requires an aid to be with him at all times during the school day. It was Ryan’s turn to walk the stage from one end to the other, to bridge over to his new status. Ryan isn’t quite the attention hog that my own angel with Ds is. My kiddo, when it becomes his time to rock the bridge, honestly, he will hard-core rock it like no other and I anticipate roars of laughter because it’s what he demands. But not Ryan. Ryan slowly ascended the stairs and took slow, small steps toward the center of the stage where he became distracted by the balloon decorations and remaining unaware of the audience. The applause and shouts began at a typical rate and steadily increased in both noise and tempo. As the noise increased, Ryan became more aware of his surroundings and glanced to notice that there was an audience. The more that his precious mind absorbed the reality that he was center-stage, Ryan began to smile an expression of humble delight. He waved cheerfully to everyone and then continued in his slow and steady pace to the opposite side of the stage where he was greeted by the new principal and then he descended the stairs. The cheers nearly brought the roof down. The applause was like thunder. Ryan was celebrated so vigorously because he undoubtedly endured a complicated journey to get there. He had to walk real hard. Ryan, his dedicated team of educators and his family endured hardship, heartache and a long-list of unnamed periods of suffering to be able to get him to the bridge in the first place - and everyone knew it.
Guess who wasn’t celebrated with that level of thunderous shouts and applause? The kid that exited the womb reciting the times tables. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we celebrated those who impressed the socks off of everyone - but it wasn’t with thunder and roars. Ryan received our kindness and compassion and the mercies of all of his team because he had endured so much struggle. It wouldn’t have been as glorious if it had been easy. And neither will our lives. Our suffering will bridge us over to glory. It’s part of the deal, thunder and all. According to Scripture, our sufferings are reason to celebrate because they are the bridge that leads to an unwavering faith.
(to be continued tomorrow)
(continued from yesterday)
I am a hiker. In warm or cold weather I love to put on my boots and a pack and climb steep ridges on paths that weave in and around rocks and roots. Depending on the temperature and my pace I am quite capable of exhausting myself to the point of dehydration. If you participate in any sort of rigorous exercise for fitness or for work, you may be familiar with that point in the activity where it seems you just cannot take one more step. Everything in you feels weak and fatigued. Maybe you even feel like you’ve failed. This is what Paul is talking about when he says that Philemon refreshes the saints. His description leads me to think that Philemon has a way of showing up to encourage others in moments where they feel they cannot keep going. In their work or mission for Christ – either without seeing the fruits of their labor or not being remembered in crucial times, he brings them love in such a way that they feel refreshed and find a renewed energy to keep going. Maybe Philemon is able to bring this sort of love into their lives because he knows what it feels like to need that boost, a spiritual pep talk, but I’m sure that his gift to refresh is meant to teach us another approach to living in love.
There is another aspect to this refreshment that appears in Philemon. Near the end, in verse 20, Paul tells Philemon of his present wish; “I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.” As a stand-alone verse, without context, it might not make much sense to us. It must be possible for Philemon to refresh Paul’s heart in Christ, but how?
Recently I was talking with some girlfriends about a situation where a young man went out of his way to make our kids feel special and appreciated. One by one our kids lit up with beaming glows across their faces. I remember one of the other moms saying, “it’s so refreshing to see such kindness from a stranger.” The young man who stopped by our kiddos to pay them some special attention took us by surprise with his actions. He could have ignored them or he could have been indifferent altogether, but instead he offered a gift of refreshment to all of us just by taking a moment to notice and to participate. From my perspective living in the same exhausting world as you do, I see that notice and participation can go a very long way in refreshing the heart of another person. It can grab the attention and interest of an unbeliever and it can be the boost of energy a saint needs on her mission with Jesus. Are we finding or are we making opportunities to be a source of refreshment for someone who is exhausted?
When Paul asked Philemon to be a benefit to him by refreshing him in Christ, there is a relevant back-story that we also need to process. Philemon had been a slave owner. Onesimus was a young man that Paul met in prison and while together, Paul led him to be a follower of Christ and in their time together they became like father and son. Paul loved Onesimus dearly and knew that he had once been a slave to Philemon. What little there is to read about this situation suggests that Onesimus had “escaped” slavery and that Philemon no longer held mastery over him. (As a reminder, Paul and Onesimus have now become like father and son.) Paul could have kept him close and continued in their friendship but he felt that in all fairness to Philemon, Onesimus needed to be returned. In the letter, Paul informs Philemon that he is sending Onesimus back to him but with that he issues Philemon a challenge. Instead of taking him back as a slave, Paul encourages Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ. More specifically, Paul asks Philemon to view Onesimus the same way as he would view Paul, as a friend and as a partner. At the point that Paul asks Philemon for the benefit of refreshing his heart, Paul is asking Philemon to do the right thing and suggests that for Philemon to receive Onesimus as friend rather than a slave, would be the very refreshment that Paul needs.
The implications of being a source of refreshment in this way would be easy to miss but I see many details in this tiny book. We can be a source of refreshment when we welcome a slave (a slave to sin) because we each have been slave to some form of sin in our own lives. We refresh when we do the right thing, as in accepting a former slave, loving them and in helping them face their pasts for the purpose of maturing to usefulness.
God’s love is so refreshing.
Merriam Webster defines “refresh” as to restore strength. Refreshing is defined in this way: (adj.) Pleasantly new, different or interesting. Making you feel more rested, energetic, etc.
Keeping this definition in mind, how do you perceive the following verse in Acts 3 vs 19? “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”. If I look at this against my own life, I see that if I repent (turn away from MY will and walk IN God’s will for my life), I will experience times of refreshing. Awesome – I’ll be pleasantly new, more rested and energetic. That’s pretty cool but there is more. I will experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. In what way might the Lord be present for me? I believe it is through other Christians. He will send someone else to refresh me through acts of love, acceptance and kindness or through good deeds done unto me.
This must also mean that I will be used by God to refresh others, that He will be present in me and use me to carry out acts of love, acceptance, kindness and good deeds unto others.
According to John in the book of Acts and to Paul in the book of Philemon, there is a call to be refreshed and to be a refresher.
Sweet Jesus, do we miss the gift of your refreshment? Are our eyes so cloudy that we fail to see every way that you give us new breath and hope to take one more step? Lord help us know the ways You keep us going. Give us courage and determination to refresh others as they need it, because we all need it. That your love would encourage us to pour out every mercy you have poured in. Jesus, help us love like you. Amen.
LET LOVE REFRESH
the support of love
Quite frankly, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought lately to how exhausting this life can be. Around every corner is a reason to throw my hands up in despair and give in to the doubt that God would use me to make a difference. The devil and his minions are out there to throw us off course, to confuse us by making us feel weak and to introduce varying forms of persecution in the center of our missions with Jesus. For me personally, I feel that I have a solid understanding in my spirit that the world is a harsh place pervaded by evil and darkness in men, women and even children. I’m rarely surprised by the evil unfolding by un-believers. But what continues to throw me off is the lack of love in the body of Christ including within many churches. I’m not talking about “the church” but a church. I believe that “the church” is the whole body of believers, the bride of Christ. “A church” is a building with an address for believers and seekers to congregate.
Both inside and outside of church walls there are Christians missing the mark. Often we witness more tearing down than building up, or closed doors verses opened arms. We see rejection and conditional acceptance thriving in an atmosphere that is supposed to be void of both. Christians, in confidence that we are walking in the way, the truth and the light – wound one another with an arrogance that we have borrowed from the dark side without even knowing it. We reject one another because our heart is lacking the great compelling of God to love.
Other unfortunate experiences within our “church” communities is this: that we may be fortunate to know the purpose that God has created us for in this life and that we work patiently to fulfill our ministries but fail to be able to see the fruits of our labor. Maybe you’ve poured into someone’s life for years and they are still the same hopeless pessimist. Maybe you’ve volunteered at your church for years and they don’t check on you when you take leave to have knee surgery. Maybe you know a group of Christians who will show up for every homeless ministry event in their city but aren’t there to help you in your time of need.
At my wits end - why am I doing this?!
We need refreshment that is both given and received from a posture of love. Recently I was struck by some verses in Paul’s letter to Philemon that had not ever stood out to me before. Philemon is such a tiny book in the New Testament, one short chapter with only 25 verses and yet mysteriously it contains the whole gospel and a treasure of a roadmap for how we might live love by letting love bring refreshment.
From a Roman prison, Paul wrote to his friend Philemon and included some friends who were holding church regularly in his home. Paul tells Philemon how thankful he is for him as he continually hears about how much he loves the saints. (Saint is a term that refers to people dedicated to God through belief in Jesus, therefore it is you and me). In hearing of this love, Paul tells Philemon in verse 7 “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
Although we do not know exactly what Philemon did or how his life served as a source of refreshment to other believers, we know that somehow he served them in such a way that the news of it traveled. This tiny little one page book in the bible could have been left out entirely, but that we might miss the command to love by being a source of refreshment. Philemon refreshed the saints and the news of this gave Paul joy and also encouraged him. Joy and encouragement are byproducts of love that refreshes.