About six years ago I felt a unsettling in my heart. Some call it a "stirring".
Hubs and I, once again, pulled out of our basically rural neighborhood heading into the city for Sunday morning worship.
Hubs noted that we drove past church after church to get to the one we were currently attending and I had to admit to myself that I never cared to seek out the individuals in those buildings because their large signs told me things about that collective body that probably wasn't "my thing".
Then it hit me.
Isn't this the way the enemy works?
Isn't this how he keeps us from fully experiencing community with others?
And the one word I heard over and over in my head was "division".
What if we accepted that one of, if not THE, best tactic Satan has in our lives is to "divide and conquer?".
He preys on our fears.
He preys on our desire to be liked.
He preys on our self importance when we see the numbers in the church grow.
He preys on our self defeat when we see them go down.
He preys on our judgmental hearts when hear music that is too loud or too boring coming out our open church windows.
He preys on our judgement of those who love too many and look past too much.
He preys on the well funded as well as the impoverished.
There is nothing in our lives, but the love of God, that the enemy cannot create division in the midst of.
And those on the outside see it. Yes, our division goes beyond just hurting us but it sucker punches the reputation of the One in charge. It makes Him seen in-credible. It makes Him seem silly and weak.
It makes Him a joke to outsiders.
There is an illustration I've heard here and there that speaks directly to my point.
In short, the story tells of an ember that is pulled out of a fire and how, after a time, it fades away and eventually dies out leaving only a whisp of smoke to snake away into thin air.
I can't help but see the local church like embers scattered all over the hearth.
Sure, some are still smoldering and untouchable but others are fading out and still others have lost all glow. But, just as in the illustration the ember is returned to the fire and life is renewed to the ember to burn hotly again, the local church cannot only be rekindled but the more embers you draw together, the hotter the smoldering and a chance for re-ignition.
I grew up here, in New England, and am well versed in the slowness to connect with others. We're cautious by nature. I often think that in the midst of that, New England followers of Christ tend to focus on what makes us different and forget the one thing that unifies us for the rest of eternity. I think that's part of why I get so excited when I pass a person with a "Jesus fish" on the back of their vehicle. I think to myself, "there goes a brother or sister! It's not just me out here! I'm not alone!"
I often wonder if the Holy Spirit stirs in each of us when He connects with Himself as believers gather in the way John did when Mary went to visit Elizabeth. There's an almost tangible excitement when different parts of the Body of Christ come together. The Bride begins to take form before our very eyes.
How often do we steal this excitement from ourselves when we refuse to join together?
How often do we let the enemy win battle after battle because we're afraid of being uncomfortable?
What if we, collectively, get over ourselves... stopped taking our man made "-isms" so seriously?
What if we put our denominational and stylistic pride aside?
What if we were all will to be uncomfortable because we understand the great likelihood that we are all actually uncomfortable, in this moment, together?
What if we, despite our apprehension, got together on neutral ground and made it all about our single, most important commonality?
Would we taste heaven?