i had in mind to confess some other depraved part of me this week, but my whole thought process has shifted and been overtaken by a whole new beast since our ladies accountability small group last night. it ended on quite an unresolved, gritty note and i've been trying to sort through what i think about it all. sparing the details, because it got pretty personal and i have no right and have made no promise to divulge any fears or flaws except my own, let me just say that i left wrestling with these questions bouncing around in my brain:
1. What is the function of the church and, as an extension of that, small group?
this was debated a little amongst our group last night. is the purpose of the church so that we, as individual believers, can come together and collectively learn more about God and His being through the study of His word? OR is it so that we can foster fellowship and genuine love and concern for our church "family" and then extend that love as an outreach to others? i understand that ultimately the answer would be "to glorify God and make His glory known to the ends of the earth" or something along those lines, but that answer doesn't tell me how to go about doing that and it isn't very helpful to my bouncing brain questions at all. so my conclusion is that the answer is C-all of the above. Of course, we're meant to study God's word so that we can understand Him better and know and love Him more, but as that happens our love for people should grow too. you can't take one and leave the other. in fact, i'm quite certain that without the love of Christ in me and the realization of what God has done through Him I can't love people properly at all. and it's hard to come to that realization of God achieving the seemingly impossible task of eternal reconciliation without taking the time to read and study how it happened in His word. and then you can't read God's word without seeing that He really, really cares about people. and He loves them a lot. and commands us to do the same. "love God. love people." (cliche I know, but still true, right?)
2. How do I express love to other people?
chocolate hearts and red roses? no, i don't even like roses. i think they're stinky. so that is not my 1st choice. sorry, valentine's day.
seriously though, how do i love people? i know 1 Cor. 13 is a beautiful example, but here's a few of my own. i listen to them. i engage them. i show interest in them. i spend time with them. i deal with their crap and keep forgiving. i hurt with them. i laugh with them. i hold them accountable. i encourage them. i am patient with them. i do not judge them. i genuinely want to be in their presence.
basically, i DO stuff with them. i am active in proving my words of love to be true. whether it's intentional or not.
3. Do I really love people or do I just pretend to because it makes me feel better about myself?
"Dear children, let us not love with word or tongue, but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18
that pretty much sums it up for me. i can say "i really care about you" or "hey, i love you so," but if my actions don't reflect that concern then i've relinquished the right to have my words trusted. that is a simple and heart breaking concept because all too often i find myself saying "i care" and really meaning " i kind of care, but only when it's convenient and helpful to me...and only if i don't have to leave the comfort of my house...and only if i don't actually have to make the effort to make deeper, personal conversation so that i can really get to know you...and only when we're at church and other people are watching...because real love gets messy...and quite frankly, i don't feel like cleaning up after you...but seriously, i really do care." c'mon, elise. really? does that sound like love? nope. that sounds like a pretty crappy deal.
and so this is where i'm at. examining myself and sorting out how to love. and whether or not i really love at all. and realizing it's not an option to love so i better get my junk together and figure out how to do it. and do it well. not this half-ass stuff that means nothing at all. and looks nothing like Christ. and that makes me think it's no wonder people don't want Christ if His people can't love. so it's imperative to get it down because i am part of the Christ's church and i have to hold myself accountable to His standard of Love. the end for now.
p.s. sorry i said the "a-word". i was on a roll and couldn't think of a better adjective. it needed to be said. don't take it personally.