Monday, February 20, 2012

We All Need Somebody to Lean On

"Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow."

There I was, little fourth grade Lauren, throat a little parched, standing in a line with other fourth graders with fidgeting arms and wiggly little legs pretending to be brave.  We had just finished our best a capella rendition of Bill Wither's "Lean on Me" to audition for Shady Hill Elementary's Colt Songsters.  Oh how I want to be a Colt Songster and dress up in the maroon polyester jumper with starchy white shirt and poofy black hair bow that would inevitably block the face of whoever unfortunately had to stand behind a chubby, but long legged me.

Where were this singing warm-up animals 17 years ago?
Since that audition (I made it, by the way. . .everyone made it) "Lean on Me" has rooted itself deep into the folds of my brain and ever so often the tunes seem to resurrect themselves into the part of my brain that holds songs in constant play for days on end.  (It's better than a Blacked Eyed Peas song, right?)

Andy has had the pleasure of my musical accompaniment over the past few days as my shaky voice belts out the lyrics of my fourth grade audition.  Somehow the lyrics began to synchronize with a greater truth I heard in church a few Sunday's ago about friends, community, and suffering, and here I am putting the notes on electronic paper.  Maybe we can all sing-a-long now.

"Call on me, brother, if you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on."

I think a few birthdays back my extrovert dial got twisted from a 9.8 to about a 4.  It's like I woke up and all of a sudden I wanted to be home as soon as possible with all the things that made me comfortable and be a private person who shares only the "good stuff" going on in my life.  Turning introvert was not so bad, it was the "hiding my boo-boo's, my want-to's, and my shouldn't-do's" from the world.  I didn't want help, and I didn't want anyone to know I needed help.

But, sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, and we definitely all have sorrow.  Whether it was our own mistakes that gave us pain, or someone else's decision that grieved us, we need people in our lives to speak truth, comfort, and even admonition our souls.  Being a hermit just makes us live in the stink of our own temporary shells.

Current series at New City Church.
Passion Week, the week that leads up to the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is powerful; sorrowful yet full of joy, and if you look more closely there is so much going on that's been recorded for the strengthening of our faith.

Jesus, knowing he is about to be betrayed by his closest friends, murdered though he is innocent, and forsaken by God the Father, as the cup of God's wrath for all evil, sin, and disobedience is about to be poured on him, goes to a place called Gethsemane to pray.  He takes three of his best friends with him, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus's soul became overwhelmed to the point of death.  He asked his friends to keep watch and pray as he went on to pray to his Father.

I believe there is a principle here in these few verses:  bring your suffering to the light.  What I mean is, don't suffer alone.  God designed the Church to be a community where we come to share our lives with one another.  That means the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jesus, in the midst of his deepest sorrow and suffering, didn't hide it from his friends, his disciples.  He took them with him and asked them to watch and pray.  Jesus still sought the Father individually, but involved his community.

I don't like to share my sorrow and suffering.  I certainly do not like to share my sin and struggles.  And when I don't, I retreat further from the plan of God.  We must make greater effort to bring our "stuff" into the light-to share it with our Bible believing, Jesus pursuing friends.  God created us for community and it is within the community that we find courage, help, healing, love, freedom, admonishment, and truth whether we're hurting or confessing sin.

Sometimes community is imperfect (you can read on in Mark 14:32-42 and see what happens when Jesus' friends are asked to pray with him), but that didn't stop Jesus from inviting his friends into his pain.

It's hard, but God's grace is strong.

I'll tell you the truth.  It's hard for me to be real, to live my life in community.  I'm new at it.  For years I pretended to have it all together and to focus on helping others instead of allowing myself to be weak before my friends.  All that did was push me further into a shell of isolation with the ugly side of me and my wounds and failures.  No one to help.  No one to tell me truth.  No one to care.  All because I didn't want anyone to know.  So much pride in this temporal body.

I am making steps towards community and being honest.  First, Andy and I got involved at New City Church, and amazing gospel-centered, community oriented body of believers here in Denver.  Second, Andy and I are making efforts to connect with our brothers and sisters at New City and are starting to share our lives.  Third, I was able to be honest with a few key people about how hard facing heart surgery was and how my faith wavered continually.  I believe what is next is sharing more. . .and that's a little scary.

May we know the truth of God's plan for community (the Church) in our lives and pursue the grace that awaits us when we bring tough stuff into the light.  Because "we all need somebody to lean on."  

A little musical treat for you.

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