Sunday, August 08, 2004

Discomfort Me, Lord

Church was uncomfortable today.

Gordon was out town, so we scrambled to get our service together - something I had volunteered to organize - and in all truth, it was about as messy as church ever gets...although there's still time for our little group of believers to aim even lower.

I misprinted the orders of worship so the inside was upside down. I managed to leave the last line of a song out of the song sheets.

No one signed up to bring donuts.

The music team was down to only three members.

And that was only the beginning...

Many of our church leaders were absent so I ended up having to recruit folks for roles in the service at the last minute. For some, it was the first time they had been asked to do those particular duties and it was disconcerting to say the least. That being the case, it only seemed fair to me that I volunteer for the job which I dreaded the most...the taking of prayer concerns. It's a role I have never done, and it's no secret why, it scares me to death.

I speak on the radio to well over 200 thousand people a day, in 3 cities...I never give a second thought to how many people are listening and I actually work hard to find ways to get more people to tune in.

I doubt there were 60 people in our sanctuary this morning and I was petrified.

You see, speaking on the radio could easily be compared to certain forms of insanity, even some of our rooms are padded. Each day I sit in a little booth and essentially talk to myself. Through the wizardry of electronics, a lot of people may be able to hear what I say...but I don't see them listening, for all I know I could be babbling to myself...some days that would probably be best.

Standing in front of people, looking into their eyes and talking....I don't do it well. I do it even less well when I'm not really prepared. I could throw in a few other excuses like sleep deprivation, etc...but in truth I stink at public speaking even on my best days.

Today there was no alternative...and unfortunately no little booth in which to hide. I stood at the front of the congregation. I was shaky at the start, but not too terrible. I even managed to provoke a few folks to things at which they were supposed to laugh.

Then came the first prayer request: mine.

Game over...score it composure: zero...confusion: well, they may still be tallying the numbers.

I became emotional in simply attempting to ask for prayers for Amy. Two loving members of the congregation immediately came to stand beside me, but there was no mistaking my discomfort. One look out into the seats, and there was also no mistaking the sense of ill ease of some people in attendance.

I spoke in sobs about the need for healing, and patience. I tried to get across the idea that I also wished for prayer to make sure Amy and I don't lose track of the many kindnesses with which we have been blessed during this ordeal, but I'm not sure anyone understood that. It made sense to me...I hope God managed to translate it. I asked for prayer for members of my family and our church family and then requested those in attendance to state their concerns. A few did. Little Chloe first...unphased as always...asking for prayers for "the gypsy people and our missionaries working with them."

That was about the only time I felt at ease during the entire process...the familiarity of a child's unquestioning love.

Other requests, praises, and such were to follow and there were also some folks very obviously shifting nervously in their seats. I could tell they were uncertain as to exactly what they were witnessing. They weren't alone...believe me.

When my shaking countenance was met only by stares, I asked that these same people now subject themselves to me leading them in prayer.

At least then I could bow my head...close my eyes and simply speak to God. I do that all the time these days, and I'm used to crying when I do it. Admittedly it's not usually in front of an audience, but most everyone else had their heads bowed too, so it wasn't like my personal display was getting worse, not that I'm certain it could.

I'm not sure what I said beyond asking God to help us with our burdens and to help us understand that we often don't understand. I remember saying that God is our hope, and that He has a plan for each of us...but I prayed that we remember that plan is on His time and that hope is for eternity.

After that all I remember saying was, "Amen." I wouldn't be surprised if some people who witnessed it all said the same thing, but not until after I sat down.

There were additional glitches in the service, nothing too severe. The fill in Pastor managed to deliver a good sermon despite the opening act.

No one ran from the church house screaming when services ended.

One young woman spotted me locking the doors after everyone had left, and ran back from the parking lot simply to hug me. She said nothing at all.

The church was now empty, but my thoughts stayed behind.

Church was uncomfortable today...most certainly for me, and indeed for others.

And I'm glad!

Church should be uncomfortable. Our faith should challenge us. Our worship should not be synchronized and should be heartfelt and humbling.

In all honesty, if I had to look for benchmarks in my Christian journey, all of them would be highlighted by events which at the time frightened or confused me. Certainly I felt ill prepared for each and every one of them.

I feel no shame in falling before my Maker and crying out in need.

In truth, I wonder how so many us manage not to do that same thing everyday.

Yes, church was uncomfortable today...and that was good.

My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your word. - Psalm 119:81