I’m not much of a crier. So, if you ever catch me with a tear in my eye, something’s up.
It’s not that I’m too “manly” to cry, and it’s definitely not because I’m all that tough. My best guess is that very few bad things have ever happened to me, and I’m too cynical to cry too many tears of joy. Sorry guys, I’m a monster.
That being said, recently, I teared up three times during one church service (“teared up” is what guys say when they don’t want to fully admit that they cried).
It’s funny when it happens. It’s as if God sneaks up on me and says, “Boo!” or would that be the Holy Ghost?… I digress. But in these moments, few and far between though they may be, I find myself convicted by the implications of a Way unlike any other I have ever experienced. I stumble into the rhythms of grace, and I can breathe again. I want to hold on tightly, but it always seems to slip through my fingers. So, the best I can do is tell the story.
It began on this particular Sunday when a family who has become dear to me reenacted a “family story time”-type moment by reading through Jesus’s parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. They then asked their sweet daughter how she would feel if she lost her favorite toy… “sad,” of course. Then they turned to their son to ask how he feels when he gets lost from his parents (as he often does around the church)… “scared”… “worried,” echoed his sister.
Their segment ended with a simple and sweet lesson about the way God feels when he loses one of us, and how we often feel when we’re separated from Him… Just simple enough to make me want to blabber like a little baby. But I don’t do that, so I “teared up.”
It may seem like a fairly innocuous scene to pull on my heartstrings like it did, and maybe it’s just because the older I get, the more I look forward to being a dad. But I think there was something more to it. It called the words of Jesus to ring in my heart and mind.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Jesus had a tendency to use those with little value to society to shame the established order of things.
As Dave Clayton once said, “Babies are useless.” And, though it’s a funny thing to say, it’s completely true, they can’t feed, bathe, or clothe themselves, let alone use a toilet. They have very little to offer the world other than being adorable. But Jesus, as he has been known to do, drops some knowledge on us.
The Kingdom of Heaven resides in these little guys. They hold timeless truths. They are not “the future,” they are the present, and they have a word to speak that’s worth listening to.
Those who have ears, listen up.
After that part of the service came and went and we sang a few songs, it was time for our sermon from Brother, Dean Barham.
Now, call me a cynic… but sometimes I’ll keep an eye on one or two randomly-selected members of our congregation who are more advanced in years during sermons to see if anything visibly offends them.
“You’re a cynic, Jesse.”
Yes, I know. Shut it, I’m trying to write about my feelings.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong here, I’m just saying that I am probably offended by a whole different set of things than my brothers and sisters who have earned their silver crown of wisdom.
Seeing as how the Spirit had crept up on me once already this particular morning, I should’ve known that the elderly couple I checked-in on once or twice during the service would have a lesson to teach me as well.
Of course, what I witnessed instead of a sour look of dissatisfaction was a man and woman, well into their seventies, emphatically nodding along to the multi-faceted gospel truths found in Jesus’s parable of the sower. They were there to hear the good news of the Kingdom and to grow in their faith, not to nitpick and complain. I had been so quick to underestimate them.
It was at the moment that I realized my preconceived notions about these people were unfair that I heard an infant cooing behind me. I nearly lost it.
There I sat, amidst one of the most stunning expressions of what it means to be the Body of Christ I’ve ever experienced. Young and old, cynics and saints, all sitting together in hopes of being transformed by the Word of God.
This is why I do what I do. Because I want to see my students holding their children in church one day, teaching them about Jesus’s parables, as I nod my silver crown in agreement.
What a beautiful and rare scene in this world of ours for people of all ages and backgrounds gathered ’round to share life together.
Lastly, there was the college student who presided over the Lord’s Supper. It was her passion that delivered the third shake from the Spirit that morning.
She started slowly, nervous perhaps, slightly awkward at times… but as she spoke, she found her rhythm, and the treasure in her soul spilled onto the floor and piled around us until it filled the room.
To hear a young person (just a freshman in college, I believe) pour their heart out for the story of God, the whole, overarching narrative of Scripture, will never cease to amaze me. Heck, even as someone who majored in Bible at a Christian university, I’m amazed to see college students on fire for God. Not because I haven’t seen them, but because they are so counter to everything the world expects of them.
Those who have eyes, take a look.
God still does amazing, beautiful, counter-cultural things through his Body if only we open ourselves to become more attuned to his rhythms. He will unite across all social divides and barriers, shatter walls of notions and norms to reveal an upside-down Kingdom of Grace and Compassion… if only we’d allow him to work in and through us.
I am abundantly blessed to serve alongside a community of believers who believe wholeheartedly in the concept of family, that we may be unified in our pursuit of the Father.
I’m even thankful for the tears that well-up as reminders of God’s work amongst us.
May I learn to rest in the awareness of his presence ever more deeply.