Last night, we gathered for our second Friday evening together with area Ukrainian refugees. The meeting takes place a floor above a church sanctuary for the bible college “Christ for Romania.” Last Friday, our meeting space was quiet, but this time, there was a music / worship event below.
It was quite surreal to hear the deep muffled bass, shouting, and celebratory atmosphere rising up to greet our quite different reality. As the 15-20 of us gathered in an intimate circle, each taking turns engaging some open questions concerning the state of our soul, our emotional health, areas of struggle currently or request for prayer, the two diametrically opposed realities were difficult to process.
Believers, engaging different realities. One (below) lost in the goodness of a victorious risen savior, the other (above) identifying with the suffering Servant on the Cross, embracing us in our pain. Two realities, one building.
In the corner of our room wasn’t a lively band and revved up stage ambience, but rather a wooden cross with Christ upon it. One of our ladies, with streams of tears rolling down her face, was recalling the journey of her son, now serving on the front-lines, had called her and asked her to pray as Russian forces were gearing up for a major offensive. Her son, Sasha, had been through so much, from drug addiction, to recovery, rejecting his faith, to now repenting and reconciling with those like his dear mama that he has brought so much suffering to. As the mama shared, we could feel this story, this journey, now consummating in a strange mix of pride for her son who voluntarily is fighting for his country, and yet a mama who fears his life won’t now have the opportunity to enjoy the better parts of that inward and outward freedom.
Then the shouts, the praises, eliminating from under our feet. Two realities, each expressing our stories, the places in life, legitimate, but strangely in-congruent.
How does God, by His Spirit, process all of these realities at the same time? How can God both grieve and rejoice at the same time? Are the believers beneath us and among us (in countries like Romania) oblivious to the carnage, the death, suffering and disillusionment around them that they could simply close their eyes, raise their hands and have it removed so easily from their reality?
Isn’t love, it’s very nature, to lift up the other before we lift up ourselves? Should there be praise and victory in our lips families are suffering on a cross of injustice? Are these judgments too harsh, am I too close to this war to make any sense of these realities literally stacked upon one another?
Surely, the body of Christ is fragmented, well beyond its intent. Without wars, in the best of times, the bride of Christ, particularly in the West has never been so divided into tribes and streams of expression. As a global force, united, we can accomplish so much more than when we drive in our own lanes. We know this. More healing, more praise. More celebration and witness, more lament and solidarity. Doing these in unison surely has the greater impact in our hearts and this broken world.
There is a time for weeping, and a time for rejoicing scripture says. I wonder if in our independence, we’ve forgotten these could and perhaps should be done in unison, by the leading of the Spirit. What if the Spirit is willing to guide us into these deeper reflections of unity, but we’re too interested in our particular outcomes?
In closing our meeting, as we, by the grace of God were able to push out the noise and enjoy a very meaningful time together, we recalled the moments that brought sunshine in our hearts. One older grandma shared how before the war, she had a wonderful summer lined up – her children were returning to work in the garden soon, travel to bring the kids in the summer, and she would bake, and gather them around the table, a true grandma’s heart! We all smiled inside, even as she shared it with tears, we knew what she was saying. Our best plans, our hopes, those moments of love, peace and when all is right in the world, have been shattered as far as loved ones have been scattered. But we do remember them, the feelings of hope, they are powerful, and the praises of those moments we all agreed, will again fill our own hearts and mouths.
But not yet. Jesus, unite your people, humanity, around the thick, solid, lamenting part of us. It’s meaty, it’s raw, it’s challenging, it’s where your Spirit is working. I’m sure the Spirit touched lives last night in the first floor’s victorious moments, but isn’t it interesting in charismatic circles it always seems to be in the quiet, humble, broken moments that God does His best formational work. When I walked past the sanctuary, I saw their event was over, and some were lingering in their seats with heads bowed, eyes closed…. thank you Jesus for working in all our hearts, somehow you do process it all, and this what makes you who you are.