I love being in the kitchen with so many godly women, all from different backgrounds, living in different countries, each one of us living a different life and in a different season. And it just amazes me to see how God’s providence has brought us together to this one place to be encouraged.
Leslie, thank you for your willingness to be in the kitchen with us today!
|Katie Lloyd Photography|
I heard a variation on the joke about all people being a part of a dysfunctional family. One dad said that he was simply doing his part to ensure his son will have something to tell his therapist one day. No family is perfect. But my family of origin, while not the most dysfunctional family in the history of families, suffered (to be totally transparent, we continue to suffer) from some serious dysfunction.
Here’s the short version of my story: My parents divorced while I was a child. One of the tragedies of their decision was that I only saw my father a few times a year. Mom turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the physical and emotional pain she faced daily. My brother and I fought like cats and dogs. I buried myself in school, extra-curricular activities, friends, and lots of boyfriends. I took advantage of any and every opportunity to be away from home.
But God, so rich in mercy, when the time came, opened my eyes to apprehend the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus. I had no idea that in addition to grace and faith and forgiveness and a new nature and hope of eternal life I would also be adopted into a new family.
I learned to relate to God as Father. Because my own father wasn’t a daily presence in my life, relating to God as my father was something that I was eager to do. I can remember evenings spent reading His word, praying for guidance, and talking to him about my life. Some of the most tender lessons centered on knowing that God is the kind of father who promises to never leave nor forsake me, who always keeps his promises, who will never allow any one or any thing separate me from His love.
My first lesson about church membership came when my mother responded with absolute coldness and seeming indifference to my telling her about my response to the Gospel. After hearing my announcement of new faith and an upcoming baptism, she said, “I was afraid you would come home and say that.” Though I had not read them yet, Jesus’ words “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,” (Matthew 10:34-35) were true for me.
In tears, I confided in one of my pastors about the broken relationships with my parents. He opened the scriptures to show me Jesus’ promise that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). He reminded me of older men and women who loved and treated me like one of their own, picking me up and taking me home on Sunday mornings and evenings, visiting me when I was sick, and even attending and cheering for me during my numerous sports competitions. He reminded me of the children who looked up to me as to an older sister. He encouraged me to be a good daughter to my mom as long as I lived at home, but also to embrace the family of God. Yes, home life was hard. But God had given me a new family.
“Family” isn’t the only way scripture describes the church. It is also referred to as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. Each characterization lends itself to a deeper understanding of the relationships within the church and the functions of the church. One of the most important facts to remember is that the church is people. The “called out ones” are not a building. They are not a meeting place. They are not program-providers. They are people united and bound by blood whose sole purpose is to glorify Jesus Christ.
Paul calls the church Christ’s body. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul teaches that Jesus is the head and the people of the church are members of his body, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (1:23; 5:29). A Christian cannot reach the fullness of which Paul speaks in isolation; we need one another. In the same letter, he refers to the church as Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5) and she must be making herself ready (Revelation 19:7-9). One way we do this is by helping one another reach maturity in Christ. We must be building one another up, which reminds me of another image scripture uses to describe the church: the building of God. Peter writes that we are “like living stones…being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus revealed to John that the Bride will make up a city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-10), and that she “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 19:23).
God isn’t finished teaching me what it means to be a member of his family. Recently, my faith family observed communion. Before the bread and cups were passed around, we sang a hymn, “Behold the Lamb (Communion Song),” by Keith and Kristyn Getty. (If you haven’t heard it, then you must give it a thoughtful listen. It is one of my favorite hymns now.) I stopped gazing at the table for a moment to look at the faces around me in the sanctuary. Father gently reminded me that this is my family. While I rejoiced in knowing that we will be worshiping the Lord together forever, our Father reminded me that I need them today if we are to continue growing in faith and spreading the gospel. Not only do I need them and their spiritual gifts, but, believe it or not, they need the gifts of God in me. As I lifted up my piece of bread, I gave thanks for Christ’s literal body and his figurative body: his church. I look forward to the day when we are all gathered around our Father’s table.
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