It’s early September and in Boone, the air around us is gray like smoke. Rain pours from the low hanging clouds above us and below us and for the moment we find ourselves alone on the porch. We share wicker chairs and blankets while the kids roam the woods surrounding the cabin. There is just enough nip in the air to encourage the snuggling and just enough space between us to be lost in our own minds.
“Hey, if I could do one thing to love the church planter in you a little better, what could I do?” I ask him. He’s resting his eyes and he answers without looking at me.
“Love my people,” he said. “And always say yes to sex.”
“No, really. As your wife, how can I best love the church planter in you?” I ask again.
“I’m serious. Love our people,” he answers. “And say yes to sex.” He’s grinning but his eyes are closed. I hit him with a throw pillow.
Love our people? I do.
Or at least I think I do.
I host things and give encouraging words and dream over coffee with them. I lead book studies and bible studies and show up to the birthday parties. I invite our people to dinner and take meals when new babies have arrive. I hug lots of necks although I’m not a hugger and I drop everything to have heart to hearts.
I love our people.
But when I consider that Jesus has placed them in my care, for an unspecified amount of time, to shepherd, to lead, to love, and to care for, even if they choose to leave our fold six months later, it is hard to keep showing up wholeheartedly in each relationship.
Every time a visitor comes through the front door of our school building or sends me an email asking about our church, my heart leaps into my throat because I am keenly aware of what loving this person will cost me.
This person will cost me time, energy, and evenings of coffee dates where I get awkward and weird with a new face. She will cost me hours of conversations about why our church is the way that it is and why we’re non-denominational. She will cost me moments away from my family. She will cost me sleep and much needed alone time for my introverted soul.
It takes time to draw a person out, to get to the inner workings of a heart, to hear a lifetime of stories, to know a person. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to learn to love a person the way they need to be loved.
Each time a person tries our church on for size, I am faced with two options: 1. Do I hole up and self preserve? or 2. Do I lay down my life for the sheep that Jesus has given?
And even if I lay down my life for the sheep, the sheep still may choose to leave the fold.
This is the hard part of loving our people and this is the thing that the Man was telling me:
Love our people even if it may cost you everything.
He’s right, you know?
Love means that I take a chance with each man and woman and child that crosses my path. It means that I lay my whole heart out, trusting Jesus to be the keeper of it. Love means that I become all things and do all things so that some may come to know the Jesus living in me.
Love says that I come and die.
And sometimes, in planting a church, the loving feels a lot like dying.
Can you guys feel the angst I’m having in writing this series? I feel like I’m bleeding all over the keys, trying to make sure I say it so perfectly that Satan can find no margin to twist these words. I don’t think such a margin exists. I’ve been mulling over this post since 8am yesterday and at a little after noon yesterday, my world got eaten up by way of text messages. And if you don’t know this already, text messages are not the way to have a conversation. It’s messy. Bleh.
At 7:30 last night I boarded a flight to Dallas to attend a Jen Hatmaker retreat with our sending church. I’m staying with my mentor, a lady whose soul work in life is to walk alongside people in crisis, particularly pastors and their families. And after a hard afternoon, I found myself in the center of the compassionate heart of Jesus. He’s good like that, isn’t He?
When the plane landed last night, I told you that I’d be taking a three day break to let something marinate before jumping back into this series. It’s hard to write through the dark when you know the enemy is looking to devour every word you write. It makes my chest hurt. But this morning, after a nine hour night of sleep, I got up with the words I couldn’t find yesterday.
My prayer is that they meet you, right where you are, and that your heart hears them as I’ve intended them to be heard. And guys- I love hearing your stories. I’m catching up on emails, so keep them coming. Your stories encourage my heart.