Monday, February 10, 2014

Unrecognized Graces (Part I)

Sometimes graces are unmistakable...

...a gorgeous fluorescent sunrise, the gift of someone who loves you unconditionally, the miracle of God sustaining a baby the doctors had determined was a miscarriage, the way the sun softly glimmers through the snow-covered trees on a wintery morning- in all these precious gifts from God, His mighty power and His deep love are so evident, they are difficult to miss.

Other times, though, God's gifts are like packages that we don't recognize as gifts right away. Most often this is because we have been blinded by our own sinful tendencies or by the views of the world around us. When we carefully unravel these packages in the light of God's Word, however, we are often overwhelmed by the marvelous gifts we find inside. And as we come to experience these gifts in our lives, our hearts are flooded with thankfulness to the One Who chose to lavish such grace upon us.

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about two of these often unrecognized gifts.

The first is the gift of the body of Christ, the amazing gift God has given us known as the Church.
Two weeks ago I was wrestling with the decision of whether or not Annie and I would go with Matt to church that Sunday morning. It had been a rough night, waking up every hour and a half or so to Annie's cries. She had been getting over a cold, and the antibiotics were throwing off her sleep, so that whole week had been very difficult. I was beyond tired, and most of me wanted to crawl back into bed and try to get however much more sleep I could. As I pulled the covers back over my head after Matt's alarm went off, however, I couldn't help being gnawed by guilt. Because of sickness, hard nights, and overall tiredness, I hadn't been to church in about a month. I tried to console myself by telling myself at least I listen to the sermons. But I couldn't get rid of the guilt that was burdening my heart as the verse from Hebrews about not neglecting to meet together as believers continually spun through my head. I couldn't get away from the challenge Mrs. Stinson had given in class that week to not "hibernate" as a new mom, especially in neglecting church; new moms, she'd said can be so tempted to stay home from church for a number of reasons- baby's interrupted naps, long nights, fear baby will catch a sickness, not wanting to put baby in the nursery, etc. These thoughts continued to burden my heart until the guilt was overwhelming. I pulled back the covers and began to cry, telling Matt I was so confused and didn't know what to do. At first Matt hugged me and encouraged me to come with him. But then, he told me not to go simply because of guilt. And he said something I don't think I'll ever forget, "Kali, God gave us church as a gift. Church is a grace. Come because of that. I think it will really encourage your heart." Those words were so helpful to me. They were freeing. And they were so right. That morning, I saw God use so many of His people to speak encouragement to us, to pray for us. I was reminded of God's incomprehensible love for me. And my heart was greatly, greatly encouraged.

This is not to say that church is all about us. But rather to share how God has given me a better perspective; instead of attending church out of a sense of duty and desire to please God (and being burdened and plagued with guilt and the sense that God is displeased with me when I do not go), it has been so refreshing to view the Church as a grace, as one of God's precious gifts to me. That's why God commands us to not neglect meeting together. And that is why Mrs. Stinson encourages new moms not to hibernate at home. After looking at church as one of God's gracious gifts to me, my desire to be with the body of Christ has deepened, and my heart has been so much more thankful. 

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