Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unconditional Love

The kids and I got to church yesterday. It's the first time in more than eight months, and I was glad to be there. For a lot of reasons, really. First of all, it was terrific to actually get all three kids together and go somewhere as a family - somewhere that wasn't a medical appointment.

I planned ahead.

Kobi would go down to the children's program (it's downstairs at this church we go to); Klaryssia would stay with Kameron and me upstairs in "regular" church. For this to happen, both Klaryssia and Kam would have to have distractions. Quiet ones, preferably.

Klaryssia packed her dog-eared Bible (she likes to look up "versions" and copy them down for fun), her MP3 player from Christmas (the ear bud cord is already sporting a few patches of purple duct tape - don't know HOW she breaks the cord, must chew on it), some gum, a few pens and plenty of paper.

For Kameron, I crammed his backpack full of stuff: his portable dvd player (got that for hospital trips, works like a charm, just stick in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and we're good to go); his Leapster (he likes to do math games), a bag full of granola bars and fruit snacks (when all else fails, feed him), a notebook (to write out math problems when the Leapster joy fades), several markers, and a hardback copy of Eclipse (he likes to look at the page numbers and chapter headings).

Off we went.

We got everyone loaded almost on time (about 15 minutes behind schedule, which is practically the same as on time). Headed over. Unloaded, wheeled into church. A nice usher offered to take Kobi down to the kid's area. We settled into the almost back row, experience tells me to be close to exits in case someone's about to lose it. And, hey. It worked! Kam stayed fairly happy - I had enough of the right things to keep him entertained and almost quiet. Klaryssia LOVED the singing - she sang as soon as the words popped up on the screen, which was a tad ahead of the actual music, but hey, she was having a blast. She smiled and swayed to the music the whole time.

I was just so grateful to be there. Me and God are kind of in this quiet place in our relationship. Well, I am. I'm pretty sure He's just hanging up there, waiting on me. I spent twenty-eight years as a non-believer in Him. Long, sad, lonely years, angry at everyone and full of blame and self-pity.

Then, I met this crazy lady who was nice to me. She offered me a ride with my groceries, and later invited my then very tiny family (just Kristopher and me) over for dinner. Blew me away with this kindness. As I said, I was very sad and lonely. She talked about her church and about how God had changed her life. By the end of the night, I was asking to go.

This church, tucked into one of the fringe neighborhoods around the edges of Seattle, was small. Maybe a hundred people on a good Sunday. But they were so sweet to me, so genuinely welcoming and interested in me and in my little bi-racial toddler boy. They weren't shocked that I, a tall redheaded white lady was there with him (remember, this was twenty years ago, single moms and mixed-race kids were rarer then). They didn't press for info about his dad, or our life-style (which I expected, after all, aren't those "Christians" so judgmental?). They just welcomed us and really accepted us. That got me interested in this God they loved.

One thing led to another, I started reading - for the first time, really - the Bible, and before I knew it, I was His. I want to be clear: it wasn't the people that "talked me into" making such a radical decision. It was His Word and the response I felt in my soul, deep down where nothing was living - it spoke to me in ways I can't describe. So, I told Him, "Let's go for it!" And my life changed. Not lonely - I had Him; not sad - ditto. Plus I had this whacky little group of old ladies, middle-aged folks, and odd-balls at this church. They loved us. Unconditionally.

Then I moved to Colorado Springs to Do Big Things for God. What followed were fifteen of the best and hardest years of my life. Way too much to cram in here - there are probably older posts that cover some of it - but, my faith took some really big hits. I think I started loving Him conditionally. Based on what He could do for me but didn't, for what ever reason. I had a set of expectations in mind when I started all this work for him, and He let me down. Which sounds pretty ridiculous, because if the work was for Him, and He had a plan, then how could He let me down?

But things didn't go like I'd hoped. And it hurt me bad.

So, back to why church was so great yesterday. No one really sought us out, or especially welcomed us. No one went out of their way to say, "hi". And that was completely fine. I wasn't there for the people, necessarily. I was there to represent. My loyalty is to Him. He's done great and amazing things in my life, and even if they aren't all turning out how I'd hoped, planned, and expected, they are amazing nonetheless. And I will stay faithful.

Somewhere in the message, the Pastor talked about having unconditional faith in God; loving Him in all circumstances, like Paul did. Paul, who didn't have an easy time of things, yet never stopped loving and never stopped believing. My job is to stay faithful whatever happens, no accusations, no finger-pointing, no fist-shaking. My job is to love Him unconditionally, like He loves me. When I am faithless, He is faithful.

I need those reminders. And I think that's what church is for, really.

Thanks for reading, much love -

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