Going Home

 

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Courtesy of Lydia Muniz.

 

It’s a unique experience to be part of the same church for an extended period of time. Before Texas, our church changed several times due to moving. Now, I’ve now been a member of Heritage Baptist Church for over twenty years.

When you’re at a church for only five or six years, you don’t really get a chance to see who will rub you the wrong way. You don’t experience the pain of sinning against someone, or being sinned against, in the way you do when you’ve been in the same church with most of the same people for most of your life. You really only get to see the nice sides of people in that short of a space of time.

When you are able to stay put, by God’s providence, and you endure in a church, by God’s grace alone, you often see people at their worst and most immature. I cringe sometimes to think of the behavior some of my fellow church members have had to witness as I’ve grown up. I’m so thankful for their love throughout the years. But, that is the other side of the coin. Sticking around means seeing people grow up. It means watching saints learn to serve. It means seeing people come back. It means the opportunity to rub edges off one another. It means different levels of sanctification all fellowshipping together.

And, it means watching fellow believers die.

In our little church alone, we’ve had Glenn, Harry, Aunt Vi, Ron, and now Robert go home. Some of them went slowly with their family gathered round. Some went too quickly. We weren’t ready. Harry lingered for several days, never alone, always a handful of us gathered around him singing, reading, praying, just being there. Robert got his diagnosis and instead of six months to two years, it was less than two weeks. But, he didn’t die alone. Two of our ladies were with him.

These saints who have gone before are missed terribly. Something will catch the corner of your eye and trigger an old memory of one of them. You look for them, but they aren’t there. But we have hope. Oh fellow pilgrim, we have hope. We will see our brothers and sisters again. They are gathered together in heaven with Christ and they are waiting for us.

They have shed the last of sin, glorious thought. They have beheld our Savior, and they are together. Someday, we too will rejoin their ranks.

Being in a church year in and year out, Sunday after Sunday, unites you deep down because some of your dearest friends–and some who you didn’t really know well, but love–are up there. The people at work don’t understand this. Many of your friends and family don’t understand this. But that person in the pew next to you, they get it. They get the strange mix of boundless joy as one more saint crosses the finish line. They get the sense of longing you have for the rest promised in heaven. They know who it is you miss, because they miss them too. 

Our church hosted another small memorial service for another small member. It was a different memorial than some of our others, because, in a way, Robert had shut himself off over the last few years. The memorial service included a confession of that, given to one of our pastors before Robert passed. He asked us all to forgive him, which we all freely did. Despite that, he was one of us, one of ours. We loved him and forgave him. Some of Robert’s family came, some friends from work, many we didn’t know. The gospel was shared. Tears were shed. Hymns were sung, and we few, we happy few, rejoiced to know Robert was in Heaven. 

 

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Courtesy of Pinterest.

 

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All that is Gold: So Heavenly minded you’re no Earthly Good

All that is gold does not glitter

“All that is gold does not glitter….”

This cliché phrase gets bandied about all the time.  Everyone’s familiar with it.  I’ve heard many a lesson, rabbit trail, and sermon on how it’s impossible to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.  I fully agree with my pastors, that it is impossible.  But, it’s taken me some time to understand what this means from a worldly perspective, why people use it, and how I’ve listened to its lies over the years.

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Last year, my husband and I sold our relatively successful small business.  My husband ultimately left this choice to me.  I was the face of the business.  I ran the front end of our boutiques, while he did all the bookwork, systematization, and big picture things.  In many ways, he loved our business far more than I did, but when he asked me if I wanted to sell it, I hesitated.  Why?  Significance.  I had wrapped most of my personal identity around being a business owner.  For ten years, I basked in the praise lavished on me by my community for my wisdom, management skills, and fashion knowledge.  I had successful older women who wanted to work for me.  I had young women who wanted to learn from me.  I had customers who wanted to talk to me every day.  On big sale days, I had lines outside my boutique doors.  I was, in a small way, significant.  When I thought through selling our business, I feared losing that significance.  Who would I be without it?  I would be Mrs. Price Jones.  That’s who I would be.

Oh, the subtle lies of the world, how they twist and turn and steal inside us.  I didn’t find it very significant to be Mrs. Price Jones.  I didn’t find being a housewife and homemaker very exciting….and I feared the remarks I would face when I told my customers that I wanted to sell our business to b

e a housewife and have more time to serve our church.  They would say I was being so heavenly minded I was no earthly good.

There is another side to this story because a woman’s heart and mind is never simple, but always complex.  I always wanted to be a homemaker, since I was a little, little girl.  I was not happy owning the stores.  I felt like they took my best from me and left me with little to give my church, husband, and family.  My husband and I had come to the realization that the sparkle of worldly success was nothing more than that – a cheap sparkle in a $5 ring.  We wanted to use our time and talent to lay up our treasures in heaven.  We wanted to stop saying no to our church family and our physical family and start saying yes.  We wanted to serve them.  We wanted to be so heavenly minded we were no earthly good.

Both of these things were going on in my heart at the same time.  Keeping the store meant a small amount of worldly significance.  Selling the story meant a new life of service to our church that nobody but our church would appreciate.  It meant looking other women in the face and telling them I was a stay at home wife.  Do you know how despised that profession is in our society?  Women look at you like you must sit around all day doing nothing but getting fat and being lazy.  It’s so hard not to qualify the choice we’ve made with a list of all my projects, as if to justify myself.

I think this is where the cliché of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good initiated.  Christians chose to give up what the world valued to do things the world didn’t value.  For me, it was when I stopped wanting to be an elf, and saw the beauty and magic of being a hobbit, of living a quiet life.  Age does this to you.  You don’t want to live in this earth forever.  I had to learn, and keep learning to trust my significance to my heavenly Father, not to the works of my hands.

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This is an ongoing process.  The Lord has blessed my husband and my efforts to serve our church and our families.  He has shown us the tarnished, worthless sparkle of a world in a pre-ash state.  But we are such sight bound beings, and sometimes that sparkle looks so promising.  So the Lord keeps showing the lie to us.  Recently, He has done this for me by helping me see that I could use my writing ability to edify and help other believers.  I had to give up another small bit of worldly significance.  Not something wrong, but something good for something better, and something only faith can see as significant, not sight.

This has led me to start becoming someone I previously disliked.  Even as a Christian, I would find other Christians who I felt were so heavenly, so holy, they were….well just boring, kinda strange, and so insignificant.  They read all this holy stuff and never Steven King.  They listened to all this Christian music and never Florence and the Machine, or Metallica.  They weren’t up on the latest geeky TV show, or any TV show, geeky or not.  I mean, what was wrong with these people.  They were so heavenly minded they were no earthly fun.

And now here I am.  I would rather be at church, my church, with my church family than anywhere else in the world.  I enjoy old hymns more than I enjoy pop songs.  I have a growing stack of religious books on my desk that I’m actually reading, not just thinking I should probably read them.  I have bible verses on my walls instead of inspirational quotes….though there is still a fair amount of Tolkien mixed in.  Why?  Why this change?  Why this pulling away from the world?  Because the older I get, the more aware I am of my own sin and God’s grace.  I’m not a good person.  I’m a wretched sinner.  I need God.  Not as an opium, I need Him as a savior.  I need Him as my savior.  I am lost without Him.  I have no hope without Him.  The older I get, the more He gently leads me away from this life and towards the one to come.  I am becoming, to the world, of no value.  I live a quiet life, serve my church, and Lord Willing, write moralistic stories for children.  My life is not changing the world.  My talents aren’t being used to eradicate poverty, stop war, or starvation.  My talents are set at the scarred feet of Christ and He is using them in a small Texas church.  And my significance?  I find it all in Him and not in me.  Someday better than others, but He is longsuffering.  He has sealed me and will not give me up even as He helps me give up this world.