Sometimes ministry is just hard. There’s no other way to tactfully put it than to say that this life God has called me to is full of hills and valleys and hiking those make for a tired Spirit sometimes. As I have always reminded my church members and friends when they are in the midst of one of the valleys of life that, God never gives us more than we can handle. Well this girl needed that reminder today. It is funny (or ironic or coincidental or however else you want to see it) how God works just when we need Him most. Just when our spirits feel like they can’t carry our tired and wounded bodies out of another valley, God does something that lifts us just enough so that we are able to keep moving.
In the span of 24 hours, God placed people in my path, each with a specific message that I needed to hear. Their words were kind and compassionate. Loving and encouraging. Wise and affirming. And their words were the salve for my soul. I could not be more grateful for their presence, their witness, and their love, not only for me, but most importantly for God. While my day started with a feeling of dread, as the afternoon wore on I felt God’s Spirit through the people He placed around me. So when the choice came for me to eat dinner alone, or share in a meal with my friends in recovery and then attend a meeting…I chose the latter.
I thought I had experienced plenty God moments already for one day. So I walked into that 12 step meeting with no expectation for God to speak to me because He had shown himself enough to me today…I thought. But as we opened the book to the page we were reading the first person read a phrase that I know was meant just for me today.
In talking about a solution to the common problem of addiction the text spoke about the fellowship that exists among those who share this commonality.
“We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful” pg. 17 of Alcoholics Anonymous
“We are people who normally would not mix”. I can’t say that I haven’t thought this very thing every time I entered the room of a 12 step program. I’ve wondered how many of these people would be friends outside this room? How many of them would even know the person beside them existed had they not met them in this program? How many of these people, who have lived in this town their whole lives, would never have met the person they now call their best friend had it not been for these rooms? This phrase wrapped up this thought more clearly than I have been able to since the beginning of my time here. “But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful” But , one word that wipes away all the differences, all of the labels that separate people, all of the preconceived notions that keep people apart, so that among them there can be a fellowship, a friendliness, an understanding that unites them all together.
As I heard this paragraph read tonight I couldn’t help but think of this fellowship that is steeped in love and understanding and acceptance and how that translates into the life of the church. What if we, as church goers, thought about our church community as a fellowship filled with friendliness and understanding? Filled with people that would not normally mix. People of different political opinions, of different ethnic backgrounds, of different occupations, of different convictions. Because let’s face it. The church is filled with people that under any other circumstances would not normally mix. But above all else we were people united by the “indescribably wonderful” nature of a fellowship that loved without ceasing. That welcomed without question. That extended friendliness before anything else. What if…
If I’m honest, this sounds like the kind of church Jesus called me to…
Maybe that’s a naive thought to have, but even on the hardest days that ministry offers I can’t lose faith that this world, filled with people that don’t mix, can come together in fellowship. Not that they always do, but they can because God created us for community. Not community that is filled with clones of ourselves, but community. Period.
As the meeting came to a close the last paragraph talked about what recovery takes…
“Willingness, honesty, and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.” pg. 568 of Alcoholics Anonymous
I’d go so far as to say that life, as well as recovery, require the same. We have to be willing, honest, and open minded if we are even going to attempt to become the better people God created us to be. Now I’m not saying I am any of those things all the time, or even part of the time, but I am saying that God used a 12 step program today to remind me of those things so that maybe I can be a better servant tomorrow. God is a God of the hills and the valleys (as the song goes) and even though my spirit is weary in the valleys, God’s spirit is constant. And present. And loving. God doesn’t leave us in the valley, He puts the people and the places in our paths that we need to push us back up onto a hill. And for that, today, I am so grateful.