First days of school are tough, especially if you have changed neighborhoods over the summer and are starting in a new school, mapping out and exploring an unknown territory of classrooms and lockers. Old friends are far removed. The anticipation of “starting fresh” is dampened by the reality that it’s “starting fresh…alone.”
One of my granddaughters experienced that, last week. She is still trying to move beyond that nagging void of absent familiarity, and it has been painful.
As I thought and prayed about this, I started thinking about the importance of people, of relationships.
To the Romans, Paul started his letter, “For I long to see you” and “often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far)…” (Rom. 1:11,13) At the end of his letter, Paul sends many greetings: “Greet Prisca and Aquila,” “Greet Epaenetus, my beloved,” “Greet Mary,” “Greet Andronicus and Junias,” “Greet Ampliatus,” “Greet Urbanus…and Stachys, my beloved.” The list continues with 18 additional names, including entire households – “the household of Narcissus,” and “the household of Aristobulus.” (Rom. 16:3-16, NASB)
Relationships. Greetings. Sharing life. The most heartwrenching part of my granddaughter’s first-day-of-school experience was her description of carrying the lunch tray from table to table in the cafeteria in an attempt to be welcomed, and finding eyes that looked away; voices that were silent, indicating no interest. Exchanged glances and silly smiles among group members, signifying the group was already established, and this unknown newcomer would remain on the outside.
New neighborhood. No connections. She sat by herself in a far corner of the cafeteria and cried.
And then she continued on with the rest of her day.
That’s a phrase that sticks in my mind, because much of life is lived in that “rest of the day” process of endurance. After the rejection. After the hard time. Afterthe carefully-made plans have fallen apart. After. We’ve all been there, to one degree or another. And that fact leads me to consider an interesting parallel.
I think I have come to believe that both “church-shoppers” and the “no-church-for-me” advocates are oftentimes people-shoppers rather than doctrine-or-morality inspectors. They are individuals who carry their “lunch”–the things that they feel define them, feed them, keep them going — in their hands and go from table to table…or church to church…or bar to bar… in much the same way as my granddaughter did, looking for the acceptance that invited her to sit down and join in. Searching for a people with whom there is a sense of camaraderie, of belonging.
Many times, their search is a result of God having moved them into a
new neighborhood…of expectation, of life cycle, of experiences, even of seeking after new things.
Just about a year ago, Bob and Kimberly Johnson visited Joyland. During that session, Kimberly stated that the word she received from the Lord for Joyland was “catalyst.”
in four variations, but I only latched on to one of them: “a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.”
That one seemed particularly relevant in view of our role as His ambassadors who give aid, comfort, and share the importance of God’s reconciliation with the world to those who believe they are standing outside, carrying their lunches around and seeking a placed to sit down, to be accepted.
Think for a moment of Paul’s phrase to the Colossians, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Let’s do some word substitution for just a minute and think of this concept: “Christ in me, the hope of glory, causing or accelerating a spiritual reaction without itself – either the indwelling Christ or the glory – being affected.” That’s truth. He is neither diminished nor dulled, the flow of His Spirit does not run dry as it is shared.
Here’s another thought…and it’s the contrast between the cafeteria table of the world, and the banquet table of our heavenly Father. We sit (or stand) at the table He sets before us. The Message translates, “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.” (Psa. 23:5) We are visited by, and live among, a people who wander from table-to-table with their often very-small lunches in their hands.
Shouldn’t we be actively sharing? Maybe even considering what particular delicacy from our six-course meal this nearly-starving person would most enjoy….or most need to jump forward into improved health, improved relationship with Him or someone else. Our table never collapses or gets folded away…our food is not cheaply prepared or purchased. Of crucial importance is the fact that there is always room at the table.
Our sumptuous feast may also be made movable…His best, His abundance, His joy, His love, all that is His that was acquired on our behalf, bountifully covering the trays we carry as we move out among the multitudes and share our feast.
Catalyst. Let the feasting begin–right there, in front of God’s enemies.