Last night, we had dinner with a family from our church. It was so lovely to share a meal around our 9-foot-long table and to hear our kids running around together downstairs as we talked and got to know one another a little more.
We shared about our kids, our interests, how we met our spouses and how long we had been a part of our church and how we came to be there. We landed on the subject of our church several times throughout the night, almost as if this common thread was woven throughout our varied topics of conversation.
As our friends described some things about our church body that they love, and as we agreed, I remembered a time a few years ago when I prayed for this exact thing. I remember reading through a book with a group of friends and reading the most beautiful descriptions of the church operating as laid out in Scripture: just as the body of Christ.
And don’t get me wrong: my experience with the church up until that point had been wonderful. I adored ‘doing life’ with and serving alongside brothers and sisters. But I began to read illustrations of how this particular author’s church operated alongside countless Scriptures outlining how the body of Christ is to operate and I honestly was overwhelmed. I wondered over what that would look like, what it would be like to be a part of that church, operating in the giftings given to me and surrounded by my brothers and sisters doing the very same thing: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7
I began to pray for that, for the Lord to show me what that could look like. And sitting around the table last night, talking about our beloved church, I almost had fresh eyes to see the gift that is my local church. We were led to our church mere months after this praying and dreaming and our church family has been the most delightful gift.
It’s funny, though, because as I’m sitting here at the same long table with a cup of coffee and reflecting, the Holy Spirit reminded me of just why my heart longed for this so much in that particular season. I was honestly in such a refining season, walking through hardship and suffering and a purification that I had prayed for but didn’t realize would come in the form it did.
I was real tender and surrounded by people I loved dearly who were serving the Lord through all sorts of roles and avenues and.. I felt like I didn’t have a place. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I didn’t have anything to offer up. There was one particular night that I felt actually sidelined as my people were celebrated for their roles and giftings. I tried desperately to hold back the tears that pricked my eyes and immediately felt great shame and guilt. I didn’t want to be feeling this way! I loved seeing how the Lord was working in my friends’ lives. I wanted to wholeheartedly celebrate, too, but at the same time I lamented, “What about me?”
My sweet friend, who loved me well through this difficult season and who didn’t know exactly how my heart was aching then, sent me this passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
As I suffered, these people suffered along with me. As they were honored, I was to rejoice along with them. And as I sat off to the side, wounded and bemoaning my inadequacies and almost completely believing the lie that I didn’t belong, my heart needed this truth: I was not any less a part of the body of Christ. Not one bit.
This is such a marvelous design. “God has so composed the body.” No division, all members having the same care for one another. The many parts of the body having specific and unique purposes, indispensable and making up one body, Christ as the head.
It’s such a beautiful thing, to have walked with the Lord through this difficult season, almost just right into an opportunity to live this out in my everyday life. It gives me such an appreciation for the Lord’s design for His church and for the church itself. It makes me want to take commands regarding the church seriously. I want to nurture His church in this way:
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.” Romans 12:10
Friend, I don’t know if you can resonate with any part of what I’ve shared here today, but I pray that you let this passage of Scripture sink down deep into your heart and soul today. The way God has created His church to function leaves no room for exclusion, division, feelings of inadequacy, resentment or selfishness, even. No, we belong to and are called to nurture the body, operating as one under Christ. We are called to lay down our lives just as Christ did.
So Lord, would you open our eyes to areas of our hearts that we may, even unknowingly, carry bitterness or resentment? And would you then purify our hearts and awaken us to the design of your church, that you yourself intentionally composed? We want to obey your commands regarding your church wholeheartedly, delightedly even. We want to strive for the sort of love that undeniably presents us to the world as yours. I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would reveal to us the gifts and talents that you have given us and that you would teach us how to use them for the building up of your church and for your glory, God. Amen.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
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