“I’m praying for you,” said a woman to me today. I didn’t even know her name, but she knew of me and knew some of my story. Apparently my mom has a big mouth. I’m not complaining I love my mom and I appreciate her having people pray for me. It got me to thinking about how connected we are. Actually this whole day has me thinking about that. I had coffee with a friend earlier today, then I went and hung out with my mom and finally ended up at a friends house. Besides me, the other thing all those moments have in common is the discussion of unity in the body of Christ.
What I find fascinating about all three conversations is that the people I was talking to are seeking the same thing I am. I started this ecumenical journey to answer questions I have about the modern church, to help me understand why there are denominations and to clarify how I fit into the body of the church, but above all else I am seeking unity and community. In my first conversation, I discovered that my friend is getting ready to launch a new aspect of her ministry that will bring together a community of people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds all seeking deeper relationship with Jesus and each other. Interestingly, that is exactly what my other friend is doing. My mom is building around her a group of people that all share one thing in common, and that is their love for Jesus, and she doesn’t care about anything else.
These three women are living life as we were meant to live. Jesus laid it out for us when He said that we are to love God, ourselves and others. And He did say to love with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22). That is to act and think and speak in love and only love.
Sunday was a bad day. Six bombings, casualties over 500 and a death toll over 250. As I said, it was a bad day. It was also Easter, a day dedicated to celebrating life and love, the greatest act of love. In the wake of that tragedy in Sri Lanka a beautiful thing has happened, a call for unity. Around the globe, people of many faiths have been expressing one message clearly and that is that we need to stop fighting and just love. That was Jesus’s ministry and it is His message to us. What happened in Sri Lanka was not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last act of hate that will result in pain and bloodshed, but how we respond could change things. If all those voices crying out for unity and love and peace were actually heard, minds could be changed, hearts healed and lives saved. We could go from having so many black marks across this human existence and start seeing real truth and community as God intends.
Jesus was hung on a cross after being beaten and humiliated and cut and stabbed and pierced. Death was eminent and He was facing a darkness that none of us could ever know as all of our sins were about to be placed on Him. And what did He say, ”Father, forgive them.” Pure love. All He wanted and all He wants is for us to be in unity with Him and each other. We don’t always have to agree and we don’t always have to believe the same stuff and we don’t always have to understand one another, that’s not what He asked us to do. We were commanded to love Him, ourselves and each other. True unity, true community and true relationship and not only in the body of Christian believers but in the children of God. There was no stipulations about only loving people at your own church, or only those of your own faith or only the people in your own backyard. He made it clear in everything He said and everything He did, we are meant to love, and that extends to all. We are all God’s children and we are all seeking that kind of love, acceptance and community.
I’m praying for you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your story, and I don’t know what you believe, but I’m praying for you.
Something I came to realize over the last few months is that I don’t think I know my voice. I don’t mean my actual audible voice. I mean the inner part of me that is meant to speak out to the world. I have figured out the message for this time in my life, but my voice still eludes me. Neil Gaiman said, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.“ So, I guess what I’m missing is me. Who is Melody now at this moment? Who do I want Melody to be?
As I begin this ecumenical journey, one of the things I want to seek out is a greater understanding of church and me. What does church mean to me? What is the true difference between church and the Church? What is my place in the Church Body? How am I meant to affect other Christ followers? And the world? Where is my voice in the chorus of believers? This journey is not just about understanding denominations; it’s also about understanding me. What is Christ telling me? Where does God want me? What do I need to know to be a better member of the Body? Honestly, the questions go on and on and on.
The truth of the matter is, like with everything, the way to understand the path to answers is getting deeper with God. There is no one who knows me better. God formed me, He knows every molecule of my body, every thought in my mind and every moment of my life. He knows me deeper than I know myself. To find my voice — to find me — I need to find God. I need to go deeper with Him and let Him reveal truth in my life.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...”
Who are you? Who are you in God? Have you found your voice? Your message? Do you see the path before you? What answers are you seeking right now? Whatever it is you’re looking for, whatever it is you need to know, hand it over to God and let Him take you deeper so you may know your voice.
As a writer, the most difficult thing is the first sentence. There is something so intimidating about that initial spark of thought that must be put down into words. It is the beginning, it’s the attention grabber, it’s the moment that introduces the message, thoughts and feelings of the author to their audience.
This is true of everything. That first moment...it’s terrifying. Walking into class on the first day, stomach twisted. Getting ready for a first date, palms sweaty. Sitting behind the wheel of your first car, trembling. So many terrifying firsts.
I am at a first. I am terrified. My life has dramatically changed in the last 18 months. To go through the list of things that have been upended would take me a very long time, but through it all I have had a few stabilities, like having a job. Now, even that has changed. And as a result, another part of my life has also changed, my connection to my church home. So, not only am I facing several first moments, but I must also process my grief and sorrow for what is ending. Terror, pain, sorrow, anger, fear, excitement, joy, confusion, and so much more is just bubbling around inside of me. I’m on the precipice of so many firsts I do not know what to do. It’s like a tidal wave of emotion and change wanting to swallow me whole.
I’m about to start what I’m calling an ecumenical journey. I have many questions rolling around in my head. I grew up attending several different churches, but I never really had the opportunity to get to know anything about the churches. For one, I was very young and I was mostly interested in learning about God and I wasn’t thinking about denominational issues. Secondly, my parents had no interest in connecting with any singular church and so moving from one church to another was a way of giving me church while maintaining the distance from church that they needed for their peace of mind. Now I have this chance to go and really explore church life. I get to try and understand why if we are one body under one God, how we can we be so dramatically divided. What makes a Lutheran Lutheran? Why do Anglicans like their liturgy? What’s the difference between a Methodist and a United Methodist? Can God be found in all of these denominations or have we put too many human rules and dogma into our churches? These questions and so many more await me. The answers, I have a feeling, will beget more questions. There’s something truly remarkable about that, and something truly terrifying. The unknown. The unwritten. It’s the first sentence of the next chapter in my life. What will God and I write together?
Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.