I Am Rubber, R U Glue?

I awaken at 3:41 a.m. and listen for his breath. For a panicked moment, I hear nothing and I wonder if he could die of a broken heart right here in our bed. Could his heart break wide open from being pushed down and trampled on for four years? For four years he has gotten back up every time—until yesterday. God’s people keep poking him in his soft places until finally, he looks at them through bloody eyes.

I don’t want to do this anymore, he said to me yesterday.

And can I blame him? Watching him hurt this way is like dying slowly and I want to hold him close to me in the dark. But he is a grown man, who wants to find his own way. And God has warned me before about interfering between the two of them. Besides, he is sleeping—even though I can’t–so I just watch the clock and think. I think how I prayed for 12 years for him to find Christ. How I longed for him to sit beside me in the pew. But God placed him up front leading worship. I think how I prayed for him to lead our family. And instead he led an entire congregation through a dark time. I cry quietly and I think about these things until the clock says 6:00 and it’s time to get up.

Later, I am running and thinking about getting through to these people—how can I make them understand? How do I tell the message that Jesus cares more about helping our fellow man than about the coffee stains on the sanctuary carpet? How do I say it and make it mean something and make it stick? How to gently say that he cares more about bonding together for God’s kingdom than about the janitorial cleaning schedule? I am pondering how to make this message meaningful–more concrete–when I remember his words.

We just give them Jesus.

His name is Mike Robison and at that time he was the associate director of the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship (PFF). He came to our church three or four years ago to talk about what God is doing through PFF in Central Asia.

Mr. Robison explained the typical MO of a missionary in Central Asia. They move into a community, take up residence there, and start working a job that supports the community’s needs. They might be a teacher, or a computer programmer, or an engineer. Point is, they become a part of the community before engaging in spreading the gospel.

The way he described it sounded like a clandestine spy operation…the agent infiltrates the community, gains their trust, establishes relationships, and THEN he very carefully begins feeling out the possibility of a church plant.

The regions Mr. Robison talked about (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan) are approximately 99% Muslim and are generally recognized as having substantially corrupt governments. It is dangerous to be a Christian there. People die for it.

As soon a house church is established, the missionary leaves the area. Mission accomplished.

You don’t stay and oversee the church? An elderly lady sitting next me asked.

We just give them Jesus, was his reply. We don’t tell them how to worship, what it should look like, or any of our American traditions. We just give them Jesus.

The elderly lady looked uncomfortable. This was at the height of our Traditional verses Contemporary Worship conflict in our church. I knew what she was thinking.

But some types of worship are wrong.

And four years later, here we are. And I’m still trying to figure out why our message has failed with some. The Central Asian missionaries make their message concrete by establishing an entire life around it. They are the substance of the gospel. Their body is the concrete…the way they help, they way they love, the actions they perform every day. As I run, I think about Ann and her trip to Guatemala. I think about Dan in Haiti. How to be real like this to my church family here?

Have I not delivered Jesus this way to my brothers and sisters? Lord knows I have tried. Another thing I remember Mike Robison say: The most difficult missionary field today is the United States.

Are our hearts so hardened by excess that we can no longer hear the voice of God?

Some messages stick better than others, Heath and Heath tell us. And we are all just broken people that make up the church. It’s when our brokenness rubs up against each other and we hurt one another that our ears close to the messages the other carries. Nothing sticks when emotions are raw this way. We are both  rubber. We bounce around and into and over and away from one another. Our words are never received.

I’m tired of thinking about it right now. Right now, I only find myself longing for that simple message the missionaries take to Central Asia.

Just give me Jesus.




Head over to HighCallingBlogs for more on how to make a message stick.

Comments

  1. says

    WOW…it’s hard isn’t it….Hmmmm….doing church or abiding in relationship….hmmmm. Iron sharpens iron…just seems wrong that the church body seems to fill that spot most of the time…I suppose I wrongly expect more. We are whittled away until in total brokeness and weariness we fall at His feet and we are prepared for His touch. Precious are our tears…He notices….He is faithful…may your running be TO Him. Can you imagine not having that sweet fellowship of peace with Him. Praying He has His way in all of you…it will be so good.

  2. says

    Laura, I came over right away after seeing your comment at Emily’s. I’ve been praying for you since, and will keep on, keep on, keep on.

    You are a LIGHT, Laura. When we were little we’d sing: “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine.”

    Keep shining!

    I am praying right now, as I write these words through tears, that God leads you to a place where people don’t try to blow out your light. May you and your family find yourself in a place where the Spirit is moving … moving in a way that spreads the light and fire already in you, Laura.

    You shine. You really do. I simply cannot wait to hug you in real life in a couple weeks.

    Love you…

  3. says

    I sighed a heavy sigh reading this. This is my story. This is my song. Being poked in soft places, and trying hard not to interfere. My husband once said, “I had the funny idea, while I was in seminary, that once I graduated people would want to hear what I had to say. I was wrong.”

    I’m looking forward to sitting with you and praying with you and searching for light with you next week. It’s there. I’m sure of it.

  4. says

    Your story makes my heart feel heavy and sad this morning, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. God’s people . . . well, they’re hard, sometimes, and we call them “God’s people” out of faith, not based on what we see. But your light is shining, glowing . . . I can see it from here. Praying for peace today!

  5. says

    Laura,

    With my head shaking in agreement and tears flowing I read this. It’s so inline in many ways with the sharing I did on my blog earlier this morning.

    Just give me more JESUS indeed! I so agree with the words spoken about the United States. This is a subject my husband and I speak of often. Just the other night we watched HGTV and a woman kept demanding of her husband for a bigger home. No matter what she was shown she had something negative to say about the kitchen, closet space and what she was “accustom to”. I thought of us as Christians. We can get to familiar with what we are accustom to and our hearts are not open to just LIVE CHRIST, LOVE CHRIST AND SHARE CHRIST rather than having a religious experience.

    Oh I could go on but I think you already clearly understand…

    I’m praying for you dear friend and your family. My heart has been so touched in my visit today and the other day.

    Love you.

  6. says

    Oh, Laura. You prayed. He answered. And not as you expected. You are living the cost of following Him. You are blessed. But it’s so painful. Even when Jesus walked this earth with His simple message, most turned away from Him, turned on Him.

    Carpet. Acoustics. Programs. Music.

    I want Jesus simply, too.

    Praying for you.

  7. says

    I needed this today, Laura. I have been a wounded warrior from the frontlines of ministry and I was especially struggling with my emotions this morning. Our pastor taught a very similar message to us yesterday … he would appreciate your words. I must learn from this.
    Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us today.

    Give me Jesus!!!

  8. says

    I’ve seen those looks as I stand up front with the praise team singing each sunday ..not the right kind of worship..tough to understand when you just want to give them Jesus..your path is one I have walked beside..blessings to you and yours friend

  9. says

    My heart aches Laura, and I think (like Susan) how His must be absolutely broken. Unfortunately it is all to easy to understand exactly what you’re talking about. We have lived it too.
    The other comments are so precious Laura. Isn’t it astounding that we can love each other with such acceptance here in this blog world. It seems it is when we are face to face that the problems work their way in – that we begin that hurtful poking.
    I will be praying for both of you Laura. The Father has a plan – He always has a plan, and it is a good one.
    I would appreciate your prayers as well. We are walking through something so dark right now.
    Wish I could be there too in a couple of weeks, but so far no cancellations. We leave all things in His hands.

  10. says

    I’ve been thinking about you in prayer. I’ve been wondering how you and yours were doing. I’ll continue to keep you in my prayers.

    (((hugs))))

    It’s the best I can offer.

  11. says

    Laura- I hear you, girl; O how I hear you. When you have time we could swap testimonies. I was in prayer just moments ago and Holy Spirit told me clearly that as you are being pummelled and aqueezed this way and that, He is BIRTHING something beautiful in your life.The very old chorus comes to mind: something beautiful. something good; all my confusion, He understood- all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, BUT He MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OUT OF MY LIFE. You are in the crucible of the Refiner’s Fire, and indeed He will bring forth something of beauty which will be of joy forever.

  12. says

    Laura,
    My heart breaks for you and your husband. I know Jesus’ heart breaks too. All of your and your husband’s efforts will not return void. Someway, somehow God is using them for good. Maybe not in the way you expect, but in a way nonetheless. Be faithful and press on — whether He keeps you where you are, or leads you somewhere new.

    Praying for you both!

  13. says

    Been reading “Radical” and “Mere Christianity” simultaneously. I am trading my ideas in for His. And a lot of it hurts.

    Some people are not made to hear beyond where their earlobes stop, while others are in dire need of simply hearing about Jesus. Where will we spend our God-given time and efforts? Oh, friend, it is a tough row to hoe.

    Your words ring heart Truths. Your words tell the story my husband, as a church elder, and I lived just over one year ago. Together on bended knees, wrapped in prayers, and surrounded by His love, that is where you will find your answers.

    We have friends in two of those places you wrote of. I am not allowed to share their names with you. Their lives depend on my discretion. Coffee stains don’t matter to them either. Only The Man matters.

    Blessings.

  14. Louise Jennings says

    Laura, you said you thought I was brave not long ago for saying what I said, but you are the brave one letting your private night be public for us. It’s funny how the connections keep coming. Like others who have commented here I had tears in my eyes as I read about your night and that seemed enough, but then you started writing about Central Asia. This is my husband’s mission field. The college he supports has 14 Central Asian students training for ministry this year, he was in Kyrgystan during the coup earlier this year. It’s for them as much as anything that I’m staying where I am. Don’t you find that even deep in the pain there is a curiosity and sometimes even an excitement to see what God is doing that we can’t quite quash? The Holy Spirit keeps us hungry to see I think…

  15. says

    Laura, this was powerful. A sad reminder that we are all human and flawed – yes, even the church. Those cuts almost always hurt most. I am sorry for the pain you and your beloved have had and yet I pray that your faith walk will be stronger because of it.

    Like a “simple country girl”, I have also been reading Radical by David Platt. Definitely words to ponder on the state of the church in America. We need Jesus but we gorge on so much less…

    Love to you my friend,
    Denise

  16. says

    My Dear, Laura,

    I hear your cry for Jesus… I’m sorry for your husband’s hurt and for yours. The wisdom that comes from within you is pure evidence of Jesus… to not interfere. I’m practicing that, too, in many of my relationships, especially my husbands. I see Jesus in your boys, in their insight, in their questioning, in their faces… it’s beautiful and it’s Jesus.

    I am praying for a community of believers for you and your family to live and share Jesus with… my heart aches for that for you and I will cry out with you. Our father hears our cry, dear Laura, and He is faithful…

    Give me Jesus.

    Shanda

  17. says

    Laura you simply amaze me. Yours words are so broken and yet so powerful. I feel like I’m so connected to you and I have only been reading your blog for a little over a month. You are often in my thoughts and prayers. I grew up a PK and so experienced a lot of what they might say is corrective instruction, but what I call CRAP. I can tell you from experience that because my parents stayed true to their love of God that increased my love for Him and the people He had called them to serve. Stay strong and LOVE Jesus! Praying for you.
    ~Jessica

  18. says

    i know of three pastors that meet i think it’s weekly. one quaker, one community, and one four-square. they are friends, and i think that they find it very helpful.

    we can almost see and touch what we know should be, but is not. and it can be very frustrating. but, this is war. and you are on the front lines. keep that armor on. don’t let this harden your heart. now, no more comparing.

    i will tell you a story from when i was growing up. some good advice my sister gave me…she is five years older than me.

    you see when my mom started to say something to me which i didn’t agree with, i would tell her. and well, she would not take it very well. my sister pulled me aside and said…”just say uh-huh (okay) and do what you want.” well, though i had a hard time with what she said, i thought about it. and i figured, at that young age, that i needed to choose my battles. it wasn’t until i was much older that i chose a couple. even then it never felt very good to have to do it. i realized that with some people, it really is better to just hold up that SHIELD of faith…you will be able to hear those arrows plink! against it, plunk! onto the ground and fizzzz as the fire fizzles out. if you hand it over to God…now…don’t be taking it back again.

    AND remind your sweet man not to be leaving his sheld behind. it does not do him any good unless he takes it with him.

    so next time you hear about coffee stains on the carpet…just think…plink plunk fizzzzz.
    you will be able to see the arrow fly, and hit the shield, like in a buggs bunny cartoon…plink!

    concrete, baby.

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