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9th of March

Up Close with Tulips


 After saying I was making some changes in my blog posting schedule and content, I’ve learned from life that it’s best to end every good and stated plan with “God willing”.  I’ve had some writing interruptions last week but there is no greater joy than engaging in God’s divine appointments.  Two stories from Thursday and Friday and an inner garden of blooms . . .

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We met around a table, five of us, and talked theology, doctrine, and church order.  I shared some of my past 18 years where I’ve witnessed the “family” of God shoot the wounded within our own walls rather than help them heal.  I shared how some of those bullets have shot me straight through, people of God not following God’s good book.

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Some may be itching about now to reach into their pockets and pull out their stones.  But let’s face it.  We’re all two-hearted hypocrites.

People are people, not Christ, and all people are broken.  But there’s a difference between broken people who know and admit they’re broken and those who act as though they’re not and perpetuate denial.  For the latter, no matter how they label themselves, I pray.  But I do not engage closely.  Until people learn to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me” when they’ve offended God by hurting another who has only hurt their narcissism, it might be best to love certain others with a bit of geography.

So at the table, I was blunt.  I said something like this:

“I do not expect to find a perfect church because there are no perfect people.  What I hope for is a somewhat healthy community where we’re doing our best to love God and one another, depending on him to help us.  What I want is more a place of healing than a place of posturing—a culture that’s open to peeling back masks that alienate, shrink, and harm souls with fear and pride.”

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I know how messy church can get, how “families” can get.  But my thinking is that God can work well with Messy if Messy is real and Messy will admit their messy and do their best to cooperate with God to clean up their messes.

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Yes, this is what I want now.  People who admit their messes and actually do something positive with them.

No, we’re never going to get it all right.  That’s not the point.  The point is growing each other up in Christ, not stoning each other down to death.  I don’t want perfection.  I just want a little forward movement.

So we end our time together and all but one leaves.  One lingers with me in the kitchen, placing her hands on both my upper arms.  She looks me straight in the eyes—that kind of grab that says, “This is going to be REALLY vulnerable here so you’d better REALLY pay close attention.”

Her eyes said what her words didn’t have to—she was needing, wanting to tell me something important.  It wasn’t about me, I knew, at least not totally.  It was about something I had said and that deep need we all have for real connection with God and one another.

What we most fear, and even reject, is what we most want and need.

We want to be seen naked—raw—exposed—imperfect—and still loved—completely loved.   We want and need real connection with our perfect God who loves completely.  We also need connection—real connection with our real, messy, imperfect, wounded, somewhat-healed, still-healing, still-desiring “sisters and brothers” who know somewhat of our great human need and our great holy God.

We need . . .

We need just a tincture, just a drop of true love—of God’s love in another— just enough to remove just one of our fig leaves that hide us from holy healing.

We can’t stop with human love.

We’re frail.

We’re flawed.

But God?

God loves us wholly—holy.  And God loves through us anyway, imperfect though we are, healing us all as we deal with the real, with the messy, asking forgiveness, and forgiving, knowing we are made from mere dust.

She told me some raw.  Her rib cage shook in my arms after I dropped my purse, my notebook, and my Bible and pulled her close, both arms around.

Where we sense God’s love in another—just enough to remove just one of our fig leaves that hide us from holy healing—holy healing begins, for both.

Real, honest, disclosing connection with a trusted other—with someone who has experienced something even sort of close to what we’ve experienced and who is willing to talk about it—this creates connection.  Healing happens when the heart of God and the heart of another combine.  Healing happens when we’ll take one tiny, faith-step to let one tiny fig leaf fall, showing some skin, some vulnerable underbelly.  That’s what’s most important.  Sometimes we get lost in the details—or the superficial.

So what happened next?

Well, that’s between me and her and our God.  All I can say is this . . .

What I experienced was holy.  What I experienced was healing.  What I experienced was real church—in a kitchen. (And for those who might wonder—I do not advocate separating from church and just convening in kitchens!)

Then again . . .

Another kitchen story . . .

The very next day . . .

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Another woman pulls up to our island.  Just the two of us are in the house.  I see it in her eyes—her desperate need for someone to see her.

She has been hurt hard—over and over—and over—in ways most of us cannot and will not ever understand.

But there’s something there.  Some spark.  Some will not just to exist, but to live, to live real.  The resilience of the soul is a God-given grace.

There’s a wanting to be known—to be known with all her flaws—with all the damage done.

She’s not saying, at least not in words.  But I can read her insides screaming, wailing . . .

Beautiful, impeccable on the outside, she’s storming, hunkered down, with shutters slammed on the inside.

But I see her eyes peeking through a slat—just one thin slat . . .

I saw a God-child shivering, begging for a crumb of love, a human/divine tender touch.

I just stopped.  I put down the knife.  I turned off the stove.  I stopped preparing our dinner.  I could not do anything else in that moment but look into her eyes, peering through those inner blinds into her holy-of-holies.

How can we deny beggars who hurt beyond what we can ever imagine?

Oh Lord, give me your heart, your ears, your words!” 

When she was just a bit poured out, she stopped and looked down.

I placed my hands around the simple glass standing between us, full of fresh tulips another friend had given me the day before.  Oranges and purples and yellows and pinks.

I took the closed yellow tulip in my hand, holding it for her, leaning across the island, just a bit closer, filling the gap between us just a bit more.

“See this?”

She looked at the tulip.

She looked back at me, eyes fixed on mine.

“This tulip is precious, even tightly closed. But she will begin to open with the warmth and the light and the water she allows herself to take in.”

And then I took the tulip, the orange one next to the yellow.  I cupped the opened bloom in my hand gently and turned its face toward the one wanting, the one waiting . . .

“And this one–this one is precious too.  She has opened a bit.  She’s beautiful, intricate, fashioned by God.  Just keep yourself in the glass, in the water, in the warmth, in the light—just as much as you can.  And then watch and see what happens.”

And the flower opened just a bit more . . .

I’ll never tell the details.  The devil is in the details.  We salivate for the juicy. Many things are too holy.  But I will tell of the wonder of God, for the glory of God . . .

Flowers dare to open when we dare to receive care in our vulnerable.  When we dare to let another soul see our wounds, even the self-inflicted.  Beauty is revealed by the heart of God who came for the wounded— for all who know their need and give the slightest invitation.

We both left the kitchen that night a bit more free, a bit more blossomed, a lot more blessed.  Because, you know, we’re all in the same glass.  We all can bloom—with God and each other.

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Categories:  brokenness

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