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A Glorious Mess By Shauna Bowman

A Glorious Mess—that is my description for my house church experience. The amazing intensity of real community coupled with the reality of being in such close emotional and spiritual proximity to fallible human beings. Yes, it is heinously messy at times, but you know something, God has cleaned up some of those messes in such an incredible fashion it’s been nothing short of miraculous.

Last night, we said goodbye to a couple that has come to mean more to me than I could ever have imagined. They have walked through the darkest days with our family. Their fingerprints are all over every major event in our lives in the last five years; from being newlyweds and moving into our first home, to the birth of our two children and the loss of two others, to medical emergencies and to the mundane survival of everyday parenting and married life. They have been there; graciously loving us through all our muck.

The miracle in it all is that I had a real hard time dealing with one of the members of this family for quite a while. He and I have talked pretty extensively about this over the last few months and we recognize the difficulties we had with each other. We have a real “mutual appreciation society” going on with each other now! He says he’s like my big brother, I say he’s more like a father (he’s far too young to be my father, so I’m sure that’s why he opts for big brother!).

Our relationship is an absolute inter-personal miracle. I’m not exaggerating, it’s true. If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be weeping every time I thought of them leaving, I would have thought you were nuts. This was a man that frustrated and, quite honestly, frightened me. He was a thorn in my side and I was a pain in his butt! And yet, God softened our hearts toward each other in a way that only God could.

The compassion that God planted in our hearts for each other grew in times of crisis until I was no longer frustrated or frightened, but really fond of the man. He probably doesn’t realize all he has taught me about the nature of our God as a father. His compassion and grace toward me as I wrestled through the struggles of my faith in the really dark times has been the picture God has used to show me about how He cares for me. He didn’t rebuke me, but he let me wrestle and loved me all the while. God showed me that’s how He felt for me as well. I now know that my Heavenly Father can be every bit as tender toward me as this man was.

There have been others too. Women who I felt were judging me in my pain, who later confessed and sought my forgiveness during a time of prayer. No one had ever asked for my forgiveness before that. It was an amazing, healing moment where a miracle of compassion burst up among us at the hands of the Lord. God couldn’t let us continue to lift up the burdens of others while there was such a great burden between us. That morning was an amazing time of opening up where we’d hardened our hearts toward each other and God softened us, again as only God could. That was a real miracle.

Of course, not all of the messes have resolved so cleanly. There was also a family who had sought out our counsel. Many of us poured into and sacrificed and interceded for the family until it hurt. Yet, they chose their own path and went on to self destruct despite all the counsel offered to them.

It is awfully hard not to take it personal when a close friend decides to throw all your love and prayers and counsel away and go on to do the very thing you’ve been praying fervently she would not do. And still, I know we did what we were called to do. They have the final responsibility of their actions. Although I can’t see the miracle in their lives yet, I know that God is still at work there—it just may take longer.

Another miracle in my life is that, for this girl who was raised to avoid conflict at all costs, I learned sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is confront them on the choices they are making. I know that God is changing my heart regarding confrontation. Losing such a close friend was very difficult, but the deep friendships with other women God has provided and cultivated since have been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Others are still very much in the thick of their muck. We’re all somewhere on the continuum of dirt—life is messy. Some of us are a little messier than others at the moment, some are a little cleaner. That’s the beauty of it—we don’t stay in the muck forever and God loves us too much to let us get complacent when we are clean. So He moves us along the continuum until we have to learn to deal with a different kind of dirt. I pray for the patience, graciousness, and compassion that have been shown to me in my darkest hours to be shared those still in the midst of their pain and frustrations.

Next weekend we say goodbye to another family that has meant a lot to my family. So many times they have come to our aid in emergencies and, well, just in life. They are wonderful friends to us—every one of them. I’m not looking forward to another goodbye. It isn’t easy to be emotionally honest and living in deep community when people leave. It hurts like heck! Yet, what a joy it’s been to see these miracles sprout up in relationships, to have known these wonderful families that I never thought would leave. What a wonderful season to have shared with them, even if it was far too brief. It really is like they say: It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

In a way, I’m glad that these goodbyes hurt as much as they do. That’s how I know we are connected in a way that God intended his church to connect. We rejoiced when it was time to rejoice together, we wept when it was time weep with each other and we lived to bear one another’s burdens.

So yes, house church is messy—messier than I ever dreamed possible. But it is also more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be. What a privilege it is to be part of all these miracles! It is definitely OK to feel sad and I know I will miss all of these folks terribly. But someday soon, I’m sure that the sadness I feel regarding these departures is going to be over-shadowed by the glory that God has worked these individuals.
Now we wait with anticipation to see what God will do next in our midst and with the lives of those moving on.

© August 2007 by Shauna Bowman bowmania@cox.net

See also the article
Hollywood Transformation
Relationships & The DNA of CMA
Dealing with Bullies in the Body of Christ by Neil Cole


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