What do you see… and how are you seen?

Today was a rough day. Disrespectful kid, I refuse to actually try something hard before giving up kid, two little kids being… little. I needed a break – to get away from the chaos for a bit and clear my head, but I didn’t know where to go as one by one my normal options were closed off. My girls encouraged me to just get out for a bit, maybe do a photo tour to show them where we live.  Good idea!

While I was out, I decided to stop and get my “regularly scheduled” end-of-pregnancy pedicure. It started out as a gift from my mom with my first pregnancy.  Same with my second. After that, I just made it my own tradition to go at the end of pregnancy when I could no longer easily reach my toes, let someone else make me pretty and feel good, and if they happen to hit that pressure point in the ankle that induces labor, more power to me! Of course, that never happened this time – I didn’t have a chance to go for before we got the news and life went crazy. Then I had certain health restrictions put on me because of the difficult labor to make sure I didn’t trigger any hemorrhage or cause any blood clots. Window of worry is (mostly) over, so I went.

I’m one of those people that can’t sit there and read a book or text or whatever when someone is assisting me.  It doesn’t matter if the person isn’t talking to me – or even if they couldn’t understand me (though my lady speaks English very well with the occasional word-seeking) – it just seems rude to ignore a human being.  We got to talking about different things.  One of the things we ended up on was church. She knows that I have a bunch of kids and my husband is a pastor, so she was curious how we get paid and how we make ends meet.  So I was explaining offerings and that no one is required to give one but we choose to out of desire to provide for our church and the Church, including those who keep it running. She went on a rambling explanation of how she disliked how the big Vietnamese church in a local major town was always “raking in” money and charging for concerts and selling food and how they “don’t do anything” for the community around them.  I tried to remind her that there are probably many things they do that we don’t see, and that a large building takes a LOT to keep it going – electricity for lighting and heat, probably paying rent or mortgage to the diocese over it, salaries for the workers… and the bigger the church, the more workers it has.  She wasn’t buying it.

Before I left, I made sure to invite her to our church if she was around.  “Oh honey, I don’t have time.” I assured her that she’d be welcome any time if she found herself available – and we don’t charge admission 😉  But it got me thinking – what kind of image of ourselves as Church are we giving off to our neighbors.  That’s Big C church – the body of Christ here on earth.  The conversation could have gone two ways. I tried to leave her seeing that good can happen (and probably is happening) that she didn’t see, as she admitted that she doesn’t go there anymore.  However, what image of the Church would she have had if I sat down and ranted about the problems we have?  The low offerings or small income or personal rants against the powers that be in the larger church body? Or what if I had bashed the denominations that she spoke about (she mentioned only knowing about two – neither of them mine) because I don’t agree with their teachings?  It would have made for great gossip, right?  Isn’t that what the beauty salon is for?

But it would have left her with a bitter taste in her mouth for Christianity – darker than what she already had. See how the Christians hate each other? Just another money-gathering scheme, the Church. I’m so glad I don’t waste my time there.  NO! I would love to have Lynn come to our church, to any Bible-teaching, works-abolishing, church: to know Christ as Savior and Brother and Friend through the lens of the Bible. How wonderful and lightening it is to know that no matter what I do or what I bring or what I don’t do or what I hoard, Christ loves ME, forgives ME, **wants** ME!

Wants HER.

But she wouldn’t desire to find that if all she knew was the bad that she saw… and I fed it. Maybe she still won’t desire to find anything again. But the seed can’t grow unless it is planted, and nothing healthy grows from spreading litter.

How you frame your church, your friends, your family, your neighbor (yes, even THAT neighbor – I’m guilty of that one, too) can have a lasting impact on how others see your church and your friends, your family and your neighbor. When we reflect the good of those around us, we can encourage others to seek that good – or seek to find good in their own situations in life, too.  But, Oh the Law! It is crushing. And thankfully it’s not all on us and that we have a loving God who forgives us when we cast a dark shadow instead of His light, a God Whose will and work WILL be done because He is good and holy – by His doing through us or in spite of our doing and stumbling-block…ing.

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