"We live in a numb society, feeling life's difficult things at such a fleeting and superficial level, constantly seeking our own comfort, enjoyment, recreation, relaxation, safety, and security in response, often at the expense of each other and our own souls. This is even true in and among our church communities, where we tend to pretty ourselves up for each other and then pretend to play nice, making up that that is what God wants us to be: happy-looking, quiet, well-behaved children. We dare not really notice and feel each other's pain, because we might have to look at and experience our own, and there is just not enough time or compassion in the whole world for that, the well is just too deep." -- Jim Spivey
"I hear many cries for unity in the church today, while a watching world sees divisiveness (and hypocrisy about that) as our greatest failure. Out of my experience as a surgeon with the nervous system in the human body, I would propose a unity based on tending to each other's pain as a unifying theme." -- Dr. Paul Brand
"Do you understand what I have done for you?" -- Jesus, to his followers
It's a powerful question that Jesus asked. It's one that even caused these overly committed, willing-to-do-anything, zealous followers of Jesus to pause and reflect. And I'm not talking about the first disciples at their last retreat in that Passover room with Jesus...I'm talking about the Ministry Team that I sat with at Ceta Canyon when we let Jesus ask us the same thing.
We allowed Jesus to look us as a group in the eyes and ask, "Do you understand what I have done for you?"
I'm going to be honest. I have preached between 50-60 sermons over this last year, primarily telling people what Jesus has done for them (and me). Before that I bet I've given no less than 1500 talks explaining the same thing. And doggone it if I don't just stop and look blankly at the floor with eyes wide open as I drift off into never-land trying to understand what Jesus has done for me.
It's amazing to me how pondering that question, sincerely dwelling on and meditating on that question, whenever I take the time to do it, always, always, always leads me into truer community (with God AND with people). Always. And if you'll refer to Objective #1 in the piece entitled "Retreat Chronicles I - Scary Excitement" on my blog, you'll know that that is exactly what we were trying to co-create with God at Ceta Canyon.
I will never do justice explaining what happened in me, and among us, on Thursday night of this retreat...at least not in words. I've had experiences of true community before. Shoot, I believe I'm one of the lucky ones in life who has been able to swim around and drown in it. So I know it by heart (and I mean that literally). My heart is only home in true Christian intimacy. Everything else in life is either a distraction to it or a setup for it (And even the distractions are setups in disguise).
So instead of doing the disservice of trying to write down what each of us shared and experienced, I'm going to commit my life to multiplying it as many times as humanly possible in as many settings as God will grant me access to with as many people as I can be in relationship with.
Why? Because when you find yourself in an unconditionally loving environment, that is teaching you the truth, modeling for you what it looks like to live in it, challenged to join in yourself, remembering what Jesus did for you so that you can have it, surrounded by people willing to go with you, freed to be you no matter what state you find yourself in, and celebrated when you take the real-life step of faith into this true community...you are never the same. And words won't be able to adequately describe it.
Go ahead. Test me in this. If you know any of us (just look us up at www.churchsouthwest.org under "staff"), ask us to describe Thursday night of our Ministry Retreat. We've got some freakin' talented, articulate people on this team...so ask 'em...and then listen when they finish. I bet they'll say something like, "You just have to experience it." It will also have a hint of both "I loved it" and "I hated it".
So I'm closing out the Chronicles concerning Thursday night, and concerning Objective #1 (see Retreat Chronicles I) leaving you wanting, with only the 3 quotes above as a clue. I really am sorry, but I could easily write a page about each person and the impact each had on just me, let alone try to tackle recording the entire dynamic. It's just a little too overwhelming for me to try to get my mind around.
Very similar, in fact, to the effect that the question of Jesus has on me..."Do you understand what I have done for you?" Stop and meditate on that right now, and you'll get why I'm having to move on to Objective #2: To define what a “disciple of Jesus” is.