Thursday, November 5, 2009

When Church Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable

On Sunday, as I sat in church at the 8am service, listening to the pastor speak, I became totally uncomfortable. In fact, I was downright convicted and honestly, I can't stand that.

I mean church is supposed to make me feel good. I put on my Sunday best (which in Bend means jeans with no holes, at least not BIG holes and only wearing flips if you're toenails don't make the person sitting next to you cringe), sing some feel-good worship songs, tithe, greet the others around me and then sit down and listen to the pastor speak on being a better Christian and growing in Christ.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw that the message was on sacrifice and the pastor would be talking about the widow who gave her last two coins; giving out of her poverty rather than her wealth. (Luke 21:1-4)

I've heard comments from several people that they are tired of hearing sermons about sacrifice because they have nothing left to sacrifice. And Saturday night, I would have agreed with them whole heartedly, but today, I'm on the other side of the fence in regards to sacrifice.

It's no secret that millions of Americans are in a financial mess and I'm right there with them. There are nights that I wake up in a panic as a result of the economy, plummeting home values, more outgo than income, bills, feeding teenagers and having enough money to put gas in everyone's car.

But what hit me as I was sitting in church was that I am really not that uncomfortable. I still have gas for my car, unlike the single mom, who lives 35 miles from town, works at Taco Bell to support her kids and come Sunday doesn't have enough money to put gas in her car to get to church.

And I still have income with benefits unlike the family who was living off of unemployment until it ran out and now is struggling to buy macaroni and cheese to feed the kids and only turns the heat up when absolutely necessary because they can't afford to pay their heat bill.

It was then that I started to squirm, but it was what the pastor brought up next that made me feel downright uncomfortable. He shared a portion of an email that he had received from a member of the church and it basically said, 'If someone gave me an envelope with $5,000 dollars I would be ecstatic. What if someone gave me an envelope with a ticket to heaven?"

And that was all I heard for the rest of the message because in my heart, I knew that $5,000 would relieve a great amount of stress for the moment and my humanness wants instant gratification whether or not there is a question of eternal gratification.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about sacrifice and what it really means. Websters will tell you that sacrifice is something given up or lost, but the Bible tells me it's something gained. I believe that what we gain is an incredible understanding of love. You see, when we sacrifice, as in 'our last two coins' sacrifice, we understand what Jesus gave up for us which was everything. When we look at it is losing something, the only thing we lose is the opportunity to love through our sacrifice.

I know that I can do without $40 in groceries to put gas in a single mom's car so she can get to church with her children. I know I can find the means to give a family a weeks worth of decent meals and then some. I really don't give out of my poverty but my wealth. And as 'poor' as I feel, I have much more than many of those around me and I know that I need to do more for those in need.

I had breakfast with my parents after church and we decided that instead of a big Thanksgiving spread, we would, as a family, serve dinner to those in need. I have also spent the week coming up with ways that I can truly sacrifice and be a blessing to others who so desperately need it.

And I don't want it to be a few weeks of going without a Starbucks coffee type of sacrifice. I want to develop a habit of really stretching myself for others every day and learning the true meaning of love through sacrifice.


~*Michelle*~ said...

I love your transparency in this post....(and you made me laugh out loud with your toes comment......we are alot alike!...including that photo, do you know I have that same candle plate/dish thing?)

anyway....I think it's wonderful that you want to reach out and help's really what Jesus calls us to be/do.

I am sending you a link to something I wrote about that pertains to Proverbs 19:17:

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done."

I hope you have a beautiful day~

Helen said...

I think of the widow's mite, too. I should do more as well.

Amrita said...

Love you Annie

katdish said...

Wow. Really great, Annie.

I give out of my wealth as well. It's not sacrifice if it has no real effect of your day to day life.

Marni said...

Okay, how cool is our God? This is EXACTLY what He's been putting in my face and on my heart the last week as well.

We're sitting on tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. I have a kid in college and that is nickle and diming us to death. I've been really stressed about money lately. Then God got in my face about good I really have it because we have our home, plenty of groceries gas for three cars and the lights, water and satellite are on. I felt like a jerk when they clicked with me.

Our pastor preached last week on sacrifice is a good thing. It causes you to rely on something and someone besides ourselves and our jobs. He told us how his parents deliberately live below their means so if a need around them rises, they can step in and meet it as God leads them to.

My hubs and I want to be those kind of people. We sat down and formed a plan to become those people. And it's only been 5 days, but God is moving and blessing. I can see it already. It's amazing.

I'll pray for how God is speaking and moving with your Annie. Keep me posted and I'll keep praying and cheering you on from here.

Big hugs!!

sherri said...

Great thoughts here- and especially meaningful from the position I am in right now.

None of us have any idea how quickly we can all become uncomfortable- in a blink!

SO important to meet the needs of those around us- and although it shouldn't be the reason behind the deeds, but it ALWAYS comes back to you. In one way or the other.

Debbie said...

what a great post!! it got me thinking too..sometimes I feel like the mom who can't put gas in the car..and yet, I have so much more then so many! EVEN if its just by way of prayers and love and support!! You have inspired me to find a way to give back...

Sande said...

Perspective so easy to push away but so full of substance once embraced.