As if I could boil it down to bullet points...but here's a messy list of things rolling around in my head...Jesus was not joking when He laid out his church plan.
What I have learned in the last few weeks or have had reiterated to my soul:
1. My life is not my own. I signed up for the Jesus Journey, and I meant it. He has my passport, He's my travel agent, and He guides my steps.
2. My life belongs to others in my local church. My actions (or lack thereof) affect them. They have the right and responsibility to call me out when I take control of my Jesus Journey. (see Matt. 18)
3. I have to practice and accept unlimited forgiveness TO others and FROM God. I cannot hold on to anything like bitterness that will weigh me down as I travel. I have to trust my community to help me, to forgive me, and to pray for me. I have to forgive myself as I allow Jesus to forgive me, too.
4. I don't like all of this community stuff. It's so much easier to be fake, allow people to think I have it all together, and never ask for help. It's easier to breeze through each day without thinking of anyone but myself and "mine." It's easier to lift up my own needs.
5. I have to learn to embrace community. It is a discipline just like praying, reading, and worshipping. It will not come naturally to this self-reliant person. It runs contrary to the independent nationalism that has been bred in me. It runs against the "put on a smiling face" Christianity that I let myself get caught up in. "Never let them see you sweat." "Never let them see you fall." "Never let your guard down." Fight this propensity at all costs!!!!
6. "We cannot be saved apart from the church." I think that being saved is a daily process by which we are formed into Jesus' image. It unfolds like a great novel, with twists and turns and surprises and lulls and OTHER CHARACTERS who serve as protagonists and sometimes antagonists...but the Author weaves it all together magically. Salvation is not a moment in time. Salvation spreads out over our lives until we allow it to permeate our every action.
7. We learn about God's character by seeing it and practicing it. We learn about the depth of God's forgiveness when we realize our own need for forgiveness and then practice extending that grace. We learn about compassion when we receive it from another's hand. We can only learn to really love by loving and being loved...by PEOPLE. Our measly extensions of God's character are his character on display. None of this can really happen in isolation.
8. God can really work on us when we give up selfish ambition. When our way is not the only way...when our path is at His discretion. When we allow our dreams to conform to a God-shaped destiny. When we pray, "Not my will, but thy will be done," just as Jesus did when facing his darkest moment.
9. Jesus knows how deep and twisted we are, and longs for us to be free from prisons we've built for ourselves. Forgiveness is liberating. Extending undeserved mercy is empowering. Seeking the "kingdom" will bring blessings that we don't even know how to ask for. We turned "What would Jesus do?" into a bracelet and a fad...but the question remains...and the answer is usually..."the opposite of my first inclination!"
10. The Gospel has nothing to do with ceasing to sin or abating sinful practices. (shock and awe...I hear it rustling through your mind!) It has nothing to do with a scorecard that you keep in your pocket to compare yourselves to others as more or less sinful than they are. It is a powerful, life-changing walk that moves you to meditate and follow the Words of Christ and to imitate the character of God. In doing so, you find yourself less and less prone to OOPS! and more prone toward grace and compassion and...community.
Blast it!!! Community may be the hardest discipline of all. It leaves no room for pretense, no allowance for acting, but it's at the heart of a Gospel. "Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to him stumble." 1 John 2:10
He is "OUR Father, who art in Heaven..." Not "MY Father..." Dang. I think it's easier to think of Him as all MINE in my little corner of my little world.