I’ve gotten a lot of bad news since Christmas. Actually, I suppose the bad news started before Christmas. We celebrated Christmas with my Grandpa in the hospital. Not allowed to go back home, I helped move my grandparents into assisted living on New Year’s Day. Only a few weeks later, he is under hospice care. I’ve been asked to do the impending funeral. I’m honored to do this, but what grandson looks forward to this kind of responsibility? It’s only one wave of bad news that has washed over me. For instance, we just found out about friends from the church moving out of town; the list could go on.
I keep catching myself thinking, “I could use some good news about now.” But it’s simply not true. I’ve had plenty of good news. I haven’t had as enjoyable of a Christmas since my parents split 7 years ago. We also discovered that some out-of-town friends are pregnant. After years of trying without success, they came and visited Heartland to receive prayer (and see us). At their next opportunity, they conceived! I’ve heard about two people giving their life to Jesus in our church in the last week (one Sunday and one at Youth). I couldn’t have asked for better news than that!
Life is intense right now, but it’s not overwhelming. I’ve experienced some mild depression, but except for a rare moment here and there, I’m living with almost zero anxiety, fear, or pressure. Some people would advise that when you’re feeling down to focus on the “good.” Others would tell you to think of someone worse off than you. Both sound like good advice, but I think it’s actually really crappy counsel! The first roots our identity in our circumstance. It also denies the reality of our pain and short circuits our need to grieve. The second bit of advice typically asks us to pity those worse off than ourselves. Yes, thinking of those “less fortunate” can give perspective, but like before, it makes us dependent on human coping mechanisms.
Instead of pitying people or looking at circumstance, I’ve tried to do two things. It’s made all the difference. 1) Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. 2) Draw close to my community.
I need both in my emotional/spiritual tank in order to face the day. Both remind me that I am not alone. Jesus is the more vital because Jesus will always accept me, love me, and be present to me in a way people can never be. But without both these things I would not survive. My community exists in 4 levels of intimacy 1) my wife 2) the Heartland staff 3) a small group of young adults I meet with once a week 4) my church. What levels of community do you have? Who knows everything about you and still likes you? Who would come running to your hospital bed? If you have a hard time answering any of those questions, there might be two that take precedent: Who have you opened your heart up to lately? Are you in the habit of investing in a small group or recovery ministry?
If you haven’t noticed yet, this is not Dan writing. This is Pastor Amos. He’s too humble to title a blog post “Dan-ing Greatly.” I’m playing off the book we’ve been referencing these last few weeks “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. As many of you know, Dan has faced an incredibly taxing 3-5 years. Many of you know pieces of his story, seen him sick, and have been along for a rocky ride in the history of this church. Not to put words in his mouth, but portions of Psalm 42 could probably describe his heart these last few years “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. My tears have been my food day and night. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Waves and breakers have swept over me.” This week, in a teaching the staff has been referring to as “Let’s Be Honest,” Dan is going to dare greatly. He’s going to model vulnerability and share his experience these last few years. He’s going to open up his heart to his church family about his journey…and the profound experience of grace and health he’s had these last few months.
I leave you with a few more verses from Psalm 42 as our template for vulnerability in community and a model for honesty before God as we root our identity in Him:
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, ‘Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”