From Pastor’s Wife to the Ladies:
As I write, right about now on any given Sunday, Barb would walk through the double doors. Soon would follow Mr. Adams, then whatever cluster of people had some musical special or other responsibility requiring an early arrival. By this time I would have made the coffee; folded, cut, and dispersed the bulletins; put on my makeup; curled, teased, and sprayed my hair to death (yes I sometimes do it at church since we usually leave the house by 6:30); brought Pastor half a cup of coffee, full cup of water, and a bulletin; snooped through the corner room; watered all seven of the plants clinging to life; fussed around among the flowers in the mezzanine plotting my next month’s opportunity; and then been seated for some quiet time at the table.
The Round Table. The round table next to the church kitchen. For there, every Sunday morning, soon enough the table is full, or not, of people and delightful (or odd) conversation. Participants come and go. Children hover, get enough and walk or run off and sometimes sit and enter in. Everyone is welcome. This time of random, casual fellowship is sweet to me.
But not today. Sweet, yes. Routine, no. This comfortable routine which I have grown to treasure may or may not come again any time soon. But I wasn’t being rhetorical or careless about the sweetness nonetheless before me. When Paul declared that he found himself content in whatever state he found himself, I don’t think it was because that by that time he had endured so many tough knocks in life that it was a knee-jerk sink or swim survival mode that he learned to adopt…even in the name of putting forth a good testimony.
I don’t think his disposition was that at all, though hardness can knock the soft out of fools and put the tough in the soft. And any believer who understands the first thing about Christianity has been familiar enough with personal responsibility to see the wisdom of the control of the tongue, setting of the attitude, and governance of the outlook to watch himself so that he doesn’t run his mouth like a fool “before he hears a matter” or ever let whatever is in the heart find a voice before checking it at the door. No. Not that either. Then what?
The basis for his learned inner composure under any and every condition is hanging all about that whole chapter (Philippians 4) like fruit from richly burdened limbs! And the slightest touch of meditation there brings its soulful sweetness into the hungry soul. Hence, I refer to my musings as sweet to me though I find this a curious morning, and myself not quite displaced by the features of our world-wide morbid camaraderie.
As some of you know, my go-to passage for “going through cancer well,” as I’ve often referred to it, was found here in vv 6-8. Well, it has become my go-to for going through life generally. Here in these verses, I find how to go through life well considering it can get downright odd. Let’s face it. A broken nail, ankle, or working system may all feel or be big depending on the moment or the day. But whether it is a thing trivial, elating, life-threatening, mundane, or disturbingly captivating, we needn’t be either elevated or undone by any of it. Any of it.
No. Like Paul, we may mature in the faith so we come to know what it is to rejoice in the Lord. And I don’t mean defining “rejoice” as learning to choose to be happy-spirited because we think that that’s the disposition which a good Christian should adopt. I mean we have a deeper opportunity to capture the point of this chapter and so many others like it: to rejoice in the Lord. To rejoice in the Lord…whom you must have come to know so well that no other disposition can even hang around…much less get a grip on you or your emotions and do your thinking for you.
But to do this, you must have come to know something about Him beyond “God is great and God is good.” No, no. This is all good to know well, but you must go deeper within and way beyond this in that you study who He is: how He handles people and situations; how He judges, chastens, supplies, refreshes, commands. And you understand what gives Him this right, the power, and purpose for such doings with man. You come to see Him as having and being worthy of all power, all knowledge, perfect judgment, and timely mercies. You know them so well that these truths, these stories old and new, fall from your lips with the joy of a fresh idea.
You have seen with the eyes of faith and experience how He does all things well. Every time. Without exception. And you have found that you can do all things through Christ which strengthens you. You see? Thus it isn’t we learning to be good little monkeys behaving a certain way because folks are watching or counting on us. This is us coming into serious contact with The Living God who has taken us in for His very own and who gives us cause to be still and know that He is God.
So as I continue to write, the morning has come and gone. No one sat with me at the table today. No small talk. Big talk. Deep talk. Any talk. But we shared around the table of fellowship all the same today, did we not? Yeah, I know. It was not the same. No hugs, wafts of perfume, refreshing words of wisdom exchanged. No children’s Sunday School or crayons. No personal stories shared. No music special, congregational singing, or quiet amen-ing. No lunch, happy birthday-ing, or choir practice. But it was still good because it was what we could do. God was not not among us just because we weren’t among us. God does not waste our time or efforts. Nor does He require of us what He has not supplied the grace to perform. And He certainly does not let His word fall void but sends it out to perform His purposes. And the word was proclaimed, yes? Did your heart not rejoice? Isn’t technology great? Pastor’s sermon ended up being everything about what I mean with all of this. It’s nearly creepy how often that happens.
My round table take-away is that my routine, my expectations, are taking a hit. I love to joke about how hard it is to find certain amenities in the store. 🙂 I do this mostly for fun — nice to laugh within a tough jig. But the truth is that what I need through this whole experience can not be found there at the store anyway. I want to go through this event well. And I’ll tell you in a sentence one thing that must be present within my lips for this to be true: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” Philippians 2:14
Pray with me, ladies, that He find in our hearts and mouths only praise and honor, salt and rejoicing; because that’s what is found when hearts are in fellowship with the Lord.