Monday, December 5, 2011

To Live Below With the Saints I Know

I'm an introvert. To my close friends--introverts all--that is beyond obvious. To those who are only acquaintances, that is a surprise. I think it's because of all the things I get my hands in. But, really and truly, I need to recharge at home.

All by my onesy.

Suffice it to say, I'm not a team player--which is probably why the only sports I participate in are cross-country and golf. But even those can present a challenge. A few months back, I was jogging with my 13-year-old. I could hear her steps landing in a different cadence than mine. It threw off my breathing; it threw off my pacing. I finished my two miles more exhausted than usual.

The next day I had a plan. "Since I'm a little faster than you are, how about if I give you a five-minute start?" I suggested happily. "Then I'll probably catch up to you about halfway, and I'll be able to keep an eye on you from further back." Grace looked a little doubtful but headed out. And I could breathe. And I could run at my own pace. Man, that was a great idea!

So when Brett later preached on the disciples, I was intrigued. This was a bunch that must have been like a powder keg. Can you picture Simon the Zealot in the same fellowship as Matthew the tax collector? Can you see cynical Thomas breaking bread with Bartholomew, in whom there was no guile? Can you see them all ready to throw James and John under the bus for wanting the best seats? Or Peter, who can't open his mouth except to put his foot in it (how I identify with Peter!)?

And then the crowds come. And they are pressing in around him.
And they were touching him.
I'm not a naturally touchy person.
I wish I was, but I'm not.
So I have to remind myself to hug the people I love.
And the thought of crowds pressing in on Jesus, well, it just gives me the willies.
When the woman who had been bleeding touched Jesus, he asked, "Who touched me?" as if He was just gathering information.
Not me.
I would have turned around and said, "Hey! Who touched me? Geez, can't you people keep your hands to yourself? Didn't your mother ever teach you about personal space?!"

Needy crowds...
No relief at home with the boys--who were probably ticking each other off--when they managed to remain on speaking terms.
No wonder Jesus went frequently to be alone!

For me, the challenge of the Christian walk is spelled p-e-o-p-l-e.
And just like running, I find it is much easier to run by myself than with someone else.
They breathe too fast.
Or too slow.
They make too much noise when their feet slap the ground.
They hit me with their elbows.
Or make my shoe come off by running into the back of my foot.
They forget the route.
They forget to start the clock.
Or they clock ME.
And I'm sure I return the favors.

I read a poem a few years back that set me to howling because it was so true:

To live above with the saints I love,
How that will be a glory.
To live below with the saints I know,
Now that's a different story.

Is it not true sometimes that you can't wait to meet saints of the past
like John the Baptist
or Peter
or Elijah
or Moses...
...but present-day saints like Jane Christian or Joe Bible drive you crazy???

I think a large part of sanctification is learning to run the race with the saints I know.
Extending grace,
Caring less about head-coverings on one side or nose-rings on the other
Or politics
Or flip-flops...
And more about their lives.
I think running the race with the saints I know is about Romans 14.
It's freedom holding hands with timidity.
It's strength carrying weakness.
It's intellect being patient with ignorance.
It's high standards softening the rebuke to low standards.
It's less pride
And more humility.

And as I write this, I am cognizant of the fact that I am really, really bad at this.
I still find that running alone is much easier than running on a team.
I don't play well on committees or leadership teams. I'd rather do it all by myself--or not at all.
But I have to think that living below with the saints I know
will bring God more glory than pining selfishly for Heaven.

The bad news is that the Lord has much work to do in me.
The good news is that anytime you see me getting along well with others, it's all Holy Spirit...
all the time.

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