A God Who Weeps

I heard a recent discussion asking the question of how we can come across as less judgemental and more accepting of people. How do we communicate to people that we accept them as they are and their past sins and mistakes do nothing to make us love or like them less? This is a really important question for the church as we have developed a reputation for judgement and disapproval. 

This morning in church we sang “Son of Suffering” by Bethel Music. There’s a line of the song that says, “There’s a God who weeps”. As I was singing the song this morning all I could see was the retreat I had attended the week before. It was a story retreat where a group of women gathered to share key stories from their past that shaped their beliefs and who they became. And hopefully, as the story was discussed in a safe setting, found freedom from lies, and healing from old wounds. (Think really intense group therapy.)

If I had to point at the most meaningful moment of the retreat it was when I cried and all the women in my group cried with me. And I think of that line again. “There’s a God who weeps”. 

I spent a weekend with a group of women that were almost all total strangers to me. And we shared things that revealed our true hearts and who we really were. And I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel unsafe. I didn’t feel the need to hide my wounds and mistakes. The reason I didn’t feel that way was there were rules laid out from the very beginning to keep it a safe space. The stories we discussed stayed in the group time and didn’t leave that space. I didn’t have to worry about someone coming up to me and starting a conversation I didn’t want. No fixing or unsolicited advice allowed. And, I knew that each of these women were coming out of a genuine need and desire to be there and we all had the same mission, do this story work in a safe space. We were all dedicated to this. And as we did the work, God moved in and mighty things happened, in the form of tears and nonjudgemental love being poured out. And when I left, I knew I had been on Holy Ground and I had no fear of these women betraying my trust. 

And I think about the church and all that it has the potential to be. All that Christ wants it to be. Why is it not a safe space? Why do we have to worry about gossip? Why do we have to worry about someone looking down on us if they truly knew everything we had done or what we were really like? Are we not all sinners? Don’t we all have hidden things we would rather not come to light? 

I can think of a couple things that are missing that give our churches a judgemental, unsafe status. Gossip is the first thing that comes to mind. If your favorite activity is to talk about other people and everything that is happening in their lives then you need to realize that you are not a safe person. There are so many things to talk about. Your own life. The news. The weather. The latest book/movie/tictoc/reel/show that you have seen or read. If you can’t think of anything to talk about except other people, then perhaps it’s time to start some new hobbies and expand your interests. If I know that what I tell you is going to be passed on to someone else, then I’m going to be very guarded about what I tell you. 

Another thing that comes to mind is Judging Talk. That’s where you sit around and talk about all the big sins that are out in the world and how you would never participate in such horrible things. Let’s think anything LGBTQ, abortion, being a democrat (if you live in the south), anything controversal like vaccinations, to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, the presidency. Basically any topic where you are setting up a GOOD GUYS vs BAD GUYS scenario. You have no idea what the other person’s history is or their personal thoughts on all these subjects. And when you decide to lay down the line on these subjects you are instantly putting up a wall that will separate you from anyone who thinks differently than you. Is there a right and a wrong? Yes. I believe the Bible is pretty clear on a lot of subjects. And not so clear on a lot of subjects too. As a Christian our job is to introduce people to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to convict people of sin and lead them to repentance. Not mine. My job is to love people and follow God’s word as best as I am able and let my life be an example to people who are younger in the faith. 

I feel like we have forgotten that the Church belongs to Jesus. It’s his. He wants to do his work in our gatherings. His agenda. We need to get rid of a lot of cultural baggage, stick to the word and let the Holy Spirit move as He wants to move. We get in the way of the mission of the church when we gossip, when we judge, when we put our political agendas first. 

I serve a God who weeps. A God who enters into my pain and who cares about the burdens I am carrying around. He is a God who brings me to a safe place, surrounds me with love, and pours healing on my wounds. I know that the experience I had on my retreat is not really replicable in a larger church setting.  I also know that church could be a lot more like that if we all had the same mindset and determination to make our churches a safe place where broken people can come and be loved without fear of judgement. 

Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Quite a while ago I had a vivid dream. The kind you wake up and think, that was important, I need to remember that, I need to think about that…

In the dream I was in a big castle whose King was in residence. There were all kinds of people in the castle, lord and ladies, courtiers, servants of all kinds. It was actually pretty crowded. I was a servant. I had never actually met the King face to face, but would see him in the distance occasionally. I also heard what everybody had to say about the King and I was in awe and a bit afraid of the King. One day, for some reason I ended up serving in the dining hall and somehow I managed to trip and spill what I was carrying all over the King who had been standing in a group of people. I was terrified. Face down on the floor begging forgiveness. The King was not angry at all and reached down to me gently to help me up and with a puzzled look on his face said, “What have they told you about me child?”

That was it.

So, it’s not too hard a dream to interpret. I would say I was the servant and the King was Jesus. My knowledge of him was as a harsh taskmaster when in reality he was kind and gentle and forgiving.

I am not sure why my initial impressions of Jesus were of a harsh, unapproachable person. I think a lot of it was the Christian culture I grew up in. Christianity seemed to be about learning the rules and following them. Christians don’t listen to that kind of music. Christians don’t watch those movies. Christians don’t go to those places. Christians don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I remember hearing the phrase “Jesus doesn’t like it when you: have a bad attitude, aren’t thankful, say mean things, talk that way…” Yes Jesus loves you, as one song says, but you also better watch out, better not cry, better not pout, Jesus Christ is coming…Oh wait, was that Santa?

My adult life has been all about learning about Jesus as a God of compassion and grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. It’s been a long difficult journey and I think I have come so far and then some behavior or thought pattern shows me that I still have a long way to go to understand God’s love for me and walk in it.

Today someone at church asked if they could pray for me after the service as I had been on their mind all week. After the service I went up to get prayed for and they prayed for me, spoke words of encouragement and wisdom, direction. It was an amazing blessing. The one phrase they spoke over me that hasn’t left me all afternoon has been, “You are much beloved.”

What does that mean? Perhaps that God is for me not against me. That I’m not trying to earn his favor. That I am not alone. That God is someone I want to be with.

Here’s the hard part. God’s loving me has nothing to do with how awesome I am and everything to do with how Awesome he is. That is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around, that He is that Good, that Kind, that Compassionate, that He can extend his love to me, an everyday human who is tangled up in sin and selfishness. I feel unworthy and so thankful. And joyful and wondering and hopeful and excited. And just a little bit scared. Do I dare believe that it’s true? I have heard this message before, but somehow, every time it’s brand new, once again. God Loves Me.

For those of you reading this…It’s true for you too. He loves you. Oh that you could know this for yourself. That is my heart’s desire for you.

This is one of my favorite hymns. May it’s words bless you.

O THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS

TEXT:
Samuel Trevor Francis
MUSIC:
Folk Tune

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Public Domain