When was the last time any of us set foot in a classroom? We learn so much through all the platforms of social media, but it’s not teaching us about us. So, as Pastor Steve asked in his sermon last Sunday, what’s it like to “go back to school on me”?
I recently joined a rock ‘n’ roll band. I went to my first rehearsal just last week in a crowded garage with eight other people playing and singing their hearts out. Now, as a fifty-something- year-old woman writing this, that might sound very amusing. But it was me going back to school on me, really.
Since I was in elementary school, with one end of a jump-rope handle in my hand as a mike, I sang my heart out in my neighbor’s driveway. One day, my friend’s mom who was watching me out her kitchen window told me I had a beautiful voice. That was my first real audience.
Looking back, I realize God was showing me the talent He had given me. How many of us acknowledge the gifts that we realized as children? It’s important as adults to look back at those childhood moments and make sure that we fulfill the Lord’s intention. Fast forward to years of singing in choirs, random nervous solos, a lot of karaoke, and too much singing in my kitchen to the iPod. God’s voice inside my head saying, sing your heart out again! I’ve given you this gift!
I was afraid. Vulnerability means exposing your fear and then moving forward with the force of God’s grace. Waiting for my first song at the mike during that rehearsal, I felt God urging me on. I started with back-up vocals, and then we got into a couple of good songs, and it will all happen again next Thursday.
Matthew 12:30 says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” What’s your next step toward growing and gathering in Christ? Go back to school on yourself. We all have so many more subjects to learn.
The Presence of Pain
Beyond love, the thing that often motivates us in life is pain. Sigmund Freud wrote about the concept of thanatos, claiming that all of us have a universal death instinct, a drive toward self-destruction as a release from the suffering of this world. If there’s one thing in life we need to learn to live with, it is pain. And not many of us know how to live with it gracefully.
What does the gospel say about the pain in our lives? Pain, as Jesus and Paul tell us, is a necessary path through and into life. The portal of grief must be passed through so that we can enter another door to something greater. Romans 6:5 tells us, “For if we are united to Him in a death like His, certainly shall we be united to Him in a resurrection like His.”
But signing up for our pain-management program through Christ is not easy. Many of us find it so difficult that we opt out of His program and find another. Some of us immerse ourselves in popular culture. Others turn to more addictive ways to deal with the pain. Either way is not a way out.
As humans, we can’t simply ignore our pain because that doesn’t make it go away. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve overcome it or can just endure it. These methods don’t work either.
Jesus gives us a whole new way to live with the pain we have in our lives. It still hurts – don’t get me wrong. It’s just not as scary as it once was. When we hand over the pain to Christ, it changes in nature. When we hurt, we have hope. We have consolation. We have purpose. When we hurt, we know the Way and the Truth and the Life.
The American singer/songwriter Michael Stipe is right — “everybody hurts and everybody cries.” But we can find comfort in the pain through Christ. Pastor Steve reminded us of this on Sunday, February 5th: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we were comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)