Thursday, February 2, 2017

On Broken Bones

I am quite the expert at breaking my body parts. I have always been one of the world's better klutzes, and I suspect I always will be. I've endured many a broken bone, surgery, stitches, sports injuries, mystery ailments...(Major shout out to my parents and Blue Cross Blue Shield.) I'm pretty sure that I am, in fact, the Million Dollar Man, just slightly less bionic-y.

As someone who has experienced injury so often, I am very familiar with the idea that the whole is the sum of its parts. As much as you wish that a broken ankle would not affect your arms, it does. The work of the hands is incapacitated because they have to carry the crutches. The comfort of the underarms is compromised because of the constant friction created by the rubber rests. While not rendered completely useless on its own, your other leg works much better and faster with a partner. The stomach feels better without pain meds upsetting it. Even after the ankle is healed, the head doesn't fully trust its strength and overcompensates on the other side to protect your ankle from re-injury---and this constant misuse and misalignment destroys your back. It's a whole thing.

The same is true in a church. When one ministry struggles, the rest of the work is slowed as we scramble to cover down for it. Follow me in this:
When a children's ministry is short volunteers one Sunday, someone else has to step in--this could be a door greeter, or a information desk clerk, or a mom of young children who was really just hoping to sit down and focus on the message today. None of these people had the curriculum beforehand. None of them were prepared. The kids are now getting a glorified babysitter instead of a Bible lesson. Meanwhile, new visitors who would have been welcomed by the greeter or directed by the desk clerk are now navigating the church alone and feel like outsiders instead of valued guests. A mom who needed a message missed it and is likely going home more overwhelmed than when she came in.
This is a stretch, I know, but not without truth. When one part loses its efficiency, the other parts lose their effectiveness. Something's gotta give. Something is sacrificing, somewhere.

This happens with the individuals within our churches, too. When I am broken for whatever reason--sadness, despair, worry, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, secrecy--I slow down the Lord's work. Because God is God, and His Will will be done, He calls other believers to pick up my slack. But now they are doing their work and mine. Now the extra pressure and burden is on them while I take time to repair myself. If I am broken enough to take some real time to heal, the friction that I created for my fellow believers will start to injure them, too. It could be a while before "the Head" (which is Christ) trusts me to do His work again.

That is why it is so important to work on wellness, to strive toward maturity, and to grow together in unity. Ephesians 4:16 says, "From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." It's a whole thing.

But friend, even well bodies are not completely immune to sickness. We will most certainly all fall short and require people to pick up our slack. Your pastor is a human who will struggle in his faith. Your brothers and sisters are humans who will grow weary, falter, and stumble into temptation. That is why in Ephesians 4 Paul also tells us to "[b]e completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Men have a tendency to want to fix what's broken, but only God can do that. Christ tells us to bear each other's burdens, lovingly, while He heals them.

So to the brother or sister who is feeling the rub from carrying someone else's load, rejoice! Know that with every extra effort, Christ is saying to you "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!"

And to the brother or sister who is broken, accept the grace that is sufficient, the strength that is made perfect in weakness, and let Christ heal you.

Then, get back to work.