That damn muse found me in the car again.
She said, “Rose, for this week’s post about temples, you will not write about finding your sanity in the bathroom surrounded by running water and the multiple shades of green on the walls, the floor, towels, and the old pea-green bathtub. You will share with everyone about finding Shalom in an actual church.
I’ve been following a bunch of new blogs in the last 4 months. New to me, not the world. This past weekend I attended the UCC Penn Central Conference Annual Meeting in Selinsgrove, PA; then, on Sunday, we had a birthday party in the afternoon followed by a very exciting trip to the cinema where Adam, Stella, and I supremely enjoyed Jurassic World. So, my usual weekend blog catch up time was used for other purposes. I’m still catching up on the reading, and this morning I read this post from Osheta Moore over at Shalom in the City. Go ahead and check it out, you’ll be glad you did.
In the meantime, I led our worship service on campus last night. We’re searching for a chaplain and in the meantime a few of us have been pitching in to keep worship services running for our youth. I’ve known for weeks that I was supposed to do the service.
Since last week brought us National Best Friend’s Day I considered talking about friendship and the importance of relationships. Jesus said to the disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Surely our little community could benefit from breaking down these words and relating them to our daily lives together.
But the muse vetoed that idea.
She instead encouraged me to share with our youth my own story of coming to the church, of finding peace and wholeness and truth in God’s love (Shalom, yes?). That muse reminded me of a time in high school when a friend invited me to his youth group and I didn’t want to go (but I really did want to go), and I fought against my desire to say no and went along instead. I later invited other friends to that youth group. It wasn’t easy in those fragile teenage years, when we were all invincible and we knew everything already, to invite some of those friends to worship. But I did. And they liked it.
So, I became the Samaritan Woman at the Well.
During the sermon last night I told our youth about growing up poor without my mama, and with my dad in and out of jail for selling pot. I talked to the kids about being smart but making irresponsible choices. I talked about my own self destructive behaviors. I talked to them about using sarcasm as a defense mechanism, and the hurt it caused my peers.
And I told them about going to that youth group meeting and how it was a major step in changing my life. It was the first time I felt truly forgiven for some of the choices I had made. It was also the first time I heard God calling me to ministry. And like any know-it-all teenager, I ignored it. But in that grace, I was like the woman at the well.
1. I experienced the grace of God.
2. I shared that experience with other people.
3. I invited them to be part of it.
At Jacob’s well in the village of Sychar, the text tells us that there was a woman drawing water from the well and Jesus asked her for a drink. She identified him as a Jew and wondered why he would ask her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. He said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” Now, the text also tells us that this woman has already had five husbands and is currently shacked up with some other dude. Not a law-abiding citizen, exactly. And adultery, for women, was not always taken lightly. So when Jesus told her to go get her husband, she had some choices to make. She ended up simply saying, “I don’t have a husband.” And Jesus called her out on it and told her about her five husbands and the guy she was living with. Amazed that anyone could know that about her, the woman recognized Jesus as the Messiah and told everyone in the village about the experience of the grace granted to her, despite her past, and she invited those people to see for themselves.
Exposing our pasts and sharing our secrets is painful and scary.
It’s also a major part of the healing process. To be whole and experience our time here as life giving, we need to share our stories that make us, us. For so much of my life I’ve depended on this saying, “Fake it until you make it.” And it’s gotten me far. But I think I’ve reached a point where enough is enough, and I’m no longer content to fake it.
To be a #wholemama to my community and to my family, I am getting real with myself. God already knows about it, so why am I running from it? I am being honest with my family about my own needs and feelings. I am asking for help. I am seeking Shalom and spreading Shalom everywhere I go. Osheta reminds me that Shalom is God’s desire for fullness in the world.
I am embracing the call to live a full life in the living waters.
In front of the community, in our beautiful and comforting chapel, I was uplifted and inspired by the spirit that connects us – the Holy love that ignites us and shows other people the joy we have in our hearts. As plain as it may seem, finding God in a church isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. But last night, that’s where we found each other – in Shalom.
Agere Contra, friends