We didn’t go to church today, which for us is rare. I remember another distant day when our van filled with our young children got hopelessly bogged between farm cottage and front gate. Forced to abandon our plans we had great fun at home that day, but there was a thwarted, sad feel to the day as well. I feel like that right now. Unless we are away, we go to church. It’s a life habit, among the best we have.
Church is the highest and the lowest point in my normal week. Without a doubt church is the week’s highlight: to meet friends, to join in the loud, vibrant worship, to pray and to listen; it’s very good indeed. Just as surely, though, it is the loneliest moment of the week. Nowhere else am I so confronted with the full gamut of loss that has occurred in the last few years. The songs I don’t sing, instruments I don’t play, the standing I don’t join in, the conversations I don’t have, and perhaps worst of all the roles I no longer fill. The excited buzz of week-end chat cocoons me in a silken cave of dark silence at times. It’s tough turning up for that. It would be so easy not to bother; and I understand why people who don’t fit the mould sometimes vanish from our midst.
We didn’t go to church today because I went yesterday – all day – and I am spent! The toll of our church’s Annual Conference (a key date, not to be missed) was physical, emotional and even spiritual. The day began uneasily at home with a reading for the day coming from the ancient history of Solomon’s Temple. “I have taken great pains”, Kind David wrote, “to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed”. In very rough figuring the value of these metals would exceed 600 billion dollars today; a figure too enormous to be grasped, and so unlikely as to make me wonder (not for the first time) how such passages of scripture should be read. I am not afraid of these niggling problems with our Holy Book, although in the past I have been more circumspect in discussing them openly. It was not a comforting start to a day that would grow more literal, perhaps even fanatical, as the hours passed. In the first break an unknown man barreled up and asked me without introduction,
“Do you have faith to be healed?”
I dread this conversation, it never ends well. In the din of a room full of talk I could not make myself heard and tried instead to sign to this fellow that I had no voice; but in the way of such people he seemed somewhat slow on the uptake. He had an agenda that allowed little sensitivity. Finally he got the picture, and helpfully reissued his challenge:
“That doesn’t matter, just nod! It’s a simple question, Do you believe?”
It was clearly time for my computer to be come out.
‘You would have to sit where I sit’, I typed, ‘to know that it’s not that simple at all’.
But for him there was only one possible outcome for people in wheelchairs, and on he ploughed.
‘Friend’, I typed (odd how that word get’s used!), ‘I think we will leave it there’.
I closed the lid of my computer, a little emphatically, and thankfully he got the point and wandered off; presumably to torment some other victim with his thin brand of faith.
I do believe that God heals, and He provides, and He helps daily, and I’ve written about that once or twice*. But the longer I live, and the more I read, the less convinced I am that that’s all He does. As my good friend likes to say, ‘eventually we need a more nuanced faith’.
Much of the day’s teaching I enjoyed: “Whoever taught you that you can live without prayer?” asked one speaker. But some I found frustratingly narrow. The urgent problem of unanswered prayer was answered much too simply. A sharp line was drawn between injury – which is acceptable for a Christian – and disease – which is not. With enough of the right sort of prayer anything can go our way. For me it was all a little too cut and dried.
One of the presenters eventually prayed for me, at the urging of a friend I think. I liked the way he spoke onstage, and I liked the way he prayed as well. But….. I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a writer, a person with responsibilities, with opportunities and a full life of my own. And maybe I also have a wheelchair and a few medical issues. But they are at the bottom of my list, so why must they go at the top of his? This simplistic reduction irks me, but of course there was no chance to explain or engage in the conversation I would have liked.
I love our church, and I believe. I am less sure exactly what I believe than I once was, but I do believe.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth: and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
As I learn the language of silence (having spent so many years employed in speech) I find that I need fewer answers than I once did. My silence seems to be in some way an echo of God’s own quiet voice. The bible is an enormous book, and yet there is so much it leaves unsaid. So many mysteries, so much trust, so much faith.
6 thoughts on “I ♥ My Church”
I don’t have to ask that question of you as I know your faith is unbreakable , I wish more people could know you as I do . I can almost see the expression on your face as you answer these questioners.
All our blessings.
Milton and Theresa.
Again, thanks for your honesty. I have met lots of others suffering with some obvious sickness who have similar thoughts to yours. It is good to get such thoughts out in the arena of debate. It’s strange, but some aspects of God are getting more complicated the more I know!! Apart from the one simple truth…yes, Jesus loves me. And you !!
Yes Rod I agree with you on the subject of healing, it is a wide and varied topic and so much more than just the physical aspect of the condition, my own experience back some years when i was facing life in a wheel chair from a severe upper spinal injury i receive much healing prayer where well meaning christiains were praying for me constantly, i felt to the point of almost forcing the holy spirit to heal in the way people expect you to be healed, but it didn t happen that way, it did happen in another special way , but often people and ourselves expect healing to happen in our own way and the Lords ways are not always our ways . There are many different ways to be healed not always the physical sometimes he is doing a far deeper healing that others may not be able to see immediately, look at the way he is working in your life , through your wonderful insight and wisdom.and ministering to so many people Rod you are a true inspiration to me and so many others.
It’s so frustrating when we are judged or to use other words “put in a box” for one thing when we are SO much more. I remember once when something I said/did in church surprised a lady because of who my father is….but of course I am a person in my own right….not just an extension of my father. Just as you are a person….not just an extension of a wheel chair & a computer. It’s a shame some people are so insensitive they do not allow for others to have a different perspective and view….or faith. God made us all different from one another, but all members of the same body. You are SO gracious Rod. I can imagine you sitting there, smiling graciously, even when he didn’t get the hint. I dont know anyone who has as much trust in the Lord and as much faith as you do. I dont know why you aren’t healed physically…but actually I’m not sure God really wants me to know all the answers! Thank you for sharing faithfully each week as you do….you are absolutely an inspiration….and a top writer! 🙂 With love, Jacquie
hey Pastor Rod, once again i am moved to tears with your blog and angered at the same time. These damn people that know nothing of you, your life or your faith. They frustrate the heck out of me, yet you remain gracious in an amazing way. I wasn’t able to make Saturdays conference, unfort, because it was my daughters 4th birthday, but i did make Friday night, which inspired me immensly.
I noticed you and your favourite wifes absence on Sunday morning.
Whatever you may feel when you arrive at NorthGate on a Sunday, please know that when you are not there we notice and that i, and many others, rejoice each and every time you roll on in! That was a joke for you Buggar!!!!
love you Ps Rod and your dear wife Karen…
Love Carla. xxx
Don’t be angry Carla, not unless people mean harm. And they don’t. I think it’s so hard for us to begin to understand one another, or to really know one another’s situation. Life is good!