Stories are life
Personal stories are rich, full of pathos, trauma, heartbreak and joys
I love them
I’ve been listening to personal stories for several months and they fill me with a sense of eternity. That thing that can’t be quantified because it’s waiting out there to be grasped by our “spirit” person. Eternity is such a ginormous concept. How does a finite mind comprehend an infinite life?
My personal feeling is that if we can begin to grasp the infinite much of our daily woes and worries will dissipate. It’s a paradox of the most extreme kind. Eternity vs the temporal. If we had the idea that what we do in this life has eternal ramifications would we still do those things, whatever they might be? Do we make our daily decisions with this infamous quote by my wise and eternally minded husband, in our minds?
“Does what I’m doing have eternal value?”
Truly, everything we do has eternal value. The bigger question is what kind of eternal value does it have? Does it bring eternal life to us or does it do eternal damage? The beauty of Christianity is that even our eternally damaging choices can be redeemed when we surrender them to Jesus.
As I’ve listened to the personal stories of people who’ve lost entire decades of their lives to choices they made, or ones that were made for them. It fills me with gratitude that God intervened in my life at an early age. We all come to Jesus damaged, broken, sinful…it’s unavoidable. Thank God for the redemption process.
We don’t have to stay that way!
Knowing people who’ve lost entire chunks of their lives to the ravages of abuse, addiction, promiscuity, selfishness, greed and downright evil stuff is humbling. Meeting them today after the damage has been mitigated by the unparalleled power of a loving God is inspiring. He changes them so completely you’d never know what they once were. Their stories are incredibly profound.
For example, the little girl who was used by men who guided undocumented immigrants into America. She never knew the proper love of an earthly father even though she has one. Her normal life experience was to be quiet, obey, serve (yes, including her body) and to portray a perfect family picture to the outside world. She never experienced what it was like to be hugged by a healthy loving father.
Until this Father’s Day
Bruce reached out and held her tight. It was as natural as breathing to him–transformative for her. Her response “So THIS is what it’s like to be held by a real father”.
There are no words
Here’s another story. Youth rebels against a distant dominating father. Lives a promiscuous life acquiring an illness that sends him into isolation to fight for his life for 7yrs. He survives. Begins a journey of repentance, redemption and restoration that takes 30yrs. 2 yrs ago he again suffered illness, surgery and a near death experience. His father’s advice to the surgeon? “Let him die”. He survived again. He’s now a participating member of our church and costume ministry.
As we served during Story of Love in March of this year he met Bruce and learned our relocation story. As he listened he shared that one Tuesday night he received a prayer request card in our Tuesday service, for a couple who were looking to relocate to the city from the suburbs in order to be able to participate more in their church. Guess what?
It was ours
This gentleman’s joy is reaching levels he’s never known. At one point he was serving alongside one of our young women and he said he was giddy he felt so much joy. He didn’t quite understand how to process it, even needing to run it by his counselor for input. When he shared it with me I told him, “It’s God’s way of restoring family to you, what you felt was the joy a father feels for his adult daughter”.
He had no words
As we journey through this adventure in Chicago, the thing that continually strikes us is how spiritually simple it’s been. Oh there are difficulties to be sure! It’s cost us financially and physically, but all we really do is come as we are and make ourselves available. No drama, or complicated hoops. We are being transformed alongside the people whose stories we’re hearing. At times it’s painful. Transformation is a lifetime process, even when God steps in at an early age. But the peace, joy, love and acceptance are unparalleled.
In all the churches we’ve served in and attended (and our list is long) we’ve never known anything like this. Things are not perfect, people are people and damage pops up from time to time. But the Holy Spirit has a way of smoothing the rough places, oiling the machine, so to speak, so the friction isn’t hot and the parts run smoothly.
It’s certainly a paradox. Chicago is one of the worst cities in America for crime, corruption, poverty, drugs, low education outcomes…pick your issue it’s here. Finding a church with such powerfully transformative stories isn’t always the logical progression.
Unless you think eternally
Romans 5:20 B “But where sin increased, grace abounded much more…”
Normal Christianity = Transformation
Our prayers are for all churches everywhere to grab hold of this equation. Normal Christianity can change the world if we allow it to happen and willingly participate.
I can’t imagine anything less now that I’ve experienced this