In Sickness and in Health, Desperation and the Love of Discpleship Groups
I hate that my first reaction, my first response, my default mode is not what it's supposed to be as a redeemed woman in Christ.
Let me explain.
The toll of living isolated lives for years with no like minded Christian fellowship, hubby's transfer being approved, selling a house, moving across 6 states over 7 days, living in temporary housing for 2 months, a drastic change in weather, looking for a house, buying a house, the overwhelming relief of finding an awesome church, all of this while trying to keep a somewhat structured home school schedule finally took a toll on my body and my mind.
I WAS TIRED!! EMOTIONALLY. MENTALLY. PHYSICALLY. PSYCHOLOGICALLY.
ALL OF ME WAS TIRED.
My body showed it by getting sick with a re-occurring sickness that 3 rounds of antibiotics over 2 months was not touching. I don't do well while on antibiotics. I don't do well while I am sick. I took it out on the people around me and it was not good.
Funny thing about getting sick. I expect to be served. I expect...period.
I don't know if its the lack of sympathy or empathy I received as a child growing up, or the ugly feminist culture that I bought into in my twenties, or just plain good old fashioned sin, what ever the cause of my entitlement was, I felt it deep down inside of my person. I feel entitled when I am not feeling well. I expect it. I demand it even ( i know...it is horrible to even admit)
When I am not served when I am sick, I get angry.
When I am not served when I am sick, I get hurt.
When I am not served when I am sick, I get bitter.
I shut down mentally and can't think straight. I operate in pity-party mode all the time.
I am like a resounding gong. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
In my bitterness, in my resentment, in my anger, I cause those around me to sin in reaction to my own sin.
I know, I cannot control when others sin against me. However, when I am faced with the reality that MY sin causes others to sin, it breaks me into a billion little pieces.
In steps the reality that God did not create us to live isolated Christian lives.
It has been years.....eons even, since my family has had the love and support from Bible believing people. Sure, we have had Christian friends in our lives but for some reason, Paul and I felt like something was missing in our relationship with Christian friends. We just didn't know what it was.
Even though we had no idea what that something was, both my husband and I desperately wanted that something, yet had no earthly idea what it would even look like.
We have been attending our new church since mid November and we absolutely love the preaching. They have, what I have always known as, small groups, but at our new church they call these groups Gospel Communities. They also have a smaller set up that they call discipleship groups. These discipleship groups are a group of people, broken down from the larger Gospel Community group, that meets together regularly to discuss the sermon from the previous Sunday or just discuss and share life stuff. Paul meets with the men's discipleship group every Wednesday morning at 5:30 am at a local coffee house. I meet with the women's discipleship group every Thursday evening at the same coffee shop.
After each session, Paul and I come home really refreshed and encouraged. It's a beautiful thing to experience. There are no other words to describe it.
Even though I have only been attending my discipleship group a short time, there is something about my group that makes me feel safe. I love that when a question or topic is posed, there is great reflective encouraging conversation and no condemnation.
At my previous group meeting, I shared with the ladies that Paul and I could use some prayer. The toll of moving, sickness and all that comes with it had worn a hole in our communication and it was showing almost daily. It came to a head this past Sunday after an awesome sermon on the 6th commandment, "do not murder" was preached. Ironic huh?
You can listen to that sermon here. Scroll down to Deuteronomy 5:6, 17 Being Christian: The Meaning of Life
Basically, Paul and I realized we were murdering each other with our thoughts and our words. It was not pretty. I cannot speak for him, but for me, the toll of dealing with my sickness was heavy. It was a heavy burden and I was not carrying it well. I wanted to be comforted in my sickness. I wanted to be served in my sickness. I was tired of being sick. I wanted to be well. I was tired of dealing with physical pain in my body.
I prayed to God for healing so that I could get back to "normal".
It was not happening.
I had been trying to figure out, through my many conversations with God, why He was not making me better. I was trying to figure out, what I was supposed to be learning about myself through my sickness. I was stumped and my sin and selfishness blinded me.
My depleted emotional capacity to figure it out had me spent. Really Spent!
In a moment of sheer desperation, I reached out and shared my struggles with a new friend from my discipleship group. (Thank you Janine) I wanted to reach out to her most of that afternoon, but my pride would not have it. I didn't want to seem like I was one of those "needy" chicks. I didn't want to give the impression that Paul and I didn't have it all together all the time. I didn't want to give the impression that we needed help. We were "new" at the church for heavens sake.
Paul and I read our Bibles daily, pray daily, teach our children the Bible daily, go to church regularly, tithe regularly, and we still didn't have it all together and that was embarrassing.
I felt that the Holy Spirit was telling me to share my struggles, but my pride fought it desperately all afternoon.
Finally about 8:30 pm, I contacted her and let her know what was going on. Instead of blowing me off with a superficial "we will pray for you", she told her husband and her husband offered to come to our house and pray/talk with us. I was stunned. Humbled.
I immediately started to believe a lie that I had become a burden and I shouldn't want to burden them any longer. To top it off, we were dealing with the biggest, windiest snow storm I had ever seen. I surely did not want this man, my new friend's husband, to have an accident on account of me and my hubby having communication issues. They persisted. I asked Paul. Paul agreed and we conceded to him coming over to pray/talk with us. He is also a part of Paul's discipleship group and I am thankful that my hubby did not have an issue with pride and how he would be perceived. My hubby's humility in allowing another guy to come pray and talk with us helped me with my own personal pride.
Let me stress how humbling this was for us. We had been accustomed to dealing with personal and private issues on our own for so long, we had forgotten what it felt like to share our struggles with others. We were walking into foreign territory. It was scary.
He showed up at our house about 10:00 pm. He stayed until almost midnight. He prayed for us. He talked with us. He prayed again.
Here is what he did and did not do-
1) He didn't condemn us.
2) He didn't side with either one of us.
3) He told us what we needed to hear
4) He reminded us of things we already knew but needed desperately to hear again because we had forgotten.
5) He told us some "new things" we had never heard before that rocked the world of both Paul and I. (Later Paul told me what rocked him and I told Paul what rocked me...and it was GOOD)
When he left, the hubby and I knew something changed. We went to bed and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. while Paul was getting ready for work and we talked. We talked and talked and talked some more. He called in to take a day off from work and we talked the entire morning.
Whatever it was that happened, we knew things were different. I can't write about what changed in my hubby, but I can write about what changed in me.
I came to the stark reality that in my sickness, I was not being Christ like at all. I was allowing the pain in my body to dictate how I treated people, which included my husband. I felt justified in treating him harshly because I was in pain. I felt owed.
I would cry out to God to take away the pain and sickness because I wanted to go back to being the "selfless sacrificial loving wife and mother" that I thought I was. God showed me that in my pain and sickness the reality was that I was far from that "selfless, sacrificial loving wife and mother".
I used to believe that the marriage vows "in sickness and in health" meant that when I got sick, I needed to be cared for and doted on. When I was not cared for and doted on, I became bitter, angry and resentful.
Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit I NOW believe that "in sickness and in health" means that I need to love my husband, my children, and anyone else, in a way that is Christ honoring, despite whether or not I am sick or healthy.
I think back to when Christ was suffering and dying on the cross. He looked down and told John to look after his mother. He continued to serve her and love her in the middle of his excruciating physical pain and suffering. He served in spite of His pain. He served in spite of His suffering.
I realized that I cannot, in my own strength, serve offers when I am suffering. However, because Christ has served others in His suffering, I am given Christ's strength to do what in my own strength I am unable to do.
The words to the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, are given fresh meaning to me. Why in the world would my Savior choose to save me is a mystery. I seem to be more of a mess than I thought I was.
But Ephesians 2:8 tells me:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
I am thankful beyond words that my salvation is a gift. He saved me in spite of my messy, prideful, angry, bitter, resentful, broken sinful heart. I am thankful that my Savior continues to show me who I am and then gives me the power and the strength to be better....to be more like Him.
I will continue to pray that I grow in my ability to love and serve others, even when I am in pain or sick. I will continue to repent when I don't do it.
We are not commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, only when we feel like it, or when we are healthy. We are commanded to love them always, despite our circumstances.
I am thankful for my discipleship group. I am thankful for our new church that equips believers to handle the messy situations of life in marriage. I am thankful for Spirit led, Spirit filled believers who go whenever help is needed and do not pass judgment or condemnation, but instead show love and support and encourage others to walk firmly in the life we are called. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit reminding me and my hubby who we are in Christ.
"He lived a life I can not live and died a death I clearly deserve"!!!
Here is the link to our church