My friend, Emily, comes to my house every Wednesday morning. Together we are going through a work book called “Storyline,” which was written by Donald Miller. The purpose of this book is to help you identify negative and positive experiences from your past and figure out how they are either contributing to or holding you back from fully living in the present. The premise is that God has equipped all of us with gifts to help us live our best lives and it is imperative to help others do the same. When I heard about this book I was excited about its possibilities for my life. It is actually more like a movement with a blog and annual conferences. I mentioned it to Emily, and she caught the spark of my enthusiasm and ordered the book as well.
You can work through Storyline in the way that suits you best, either alone or with others. If you decide to partner with someone else, you are taking a step towards self revelation, something that makes many of us feel uneasy, but Emily and I decided that the benefits of sharing our lives would outweigh the risks, so we committed to our weekly meetings and are open to being joined by others. We decided that exploring these principles in community is the best way to make the life changes we are seeking. Both of us are open people with a lot of life experience under our belt. Part of our motivation is to share our stories with others, in the hopes they can avoid some of the errors we have made. Emily has even taken fledging steps to writing a book, something she has been wanting to do for a very long time, which makes me feel that our collaboration has been a success, and I am so grateful for any small part I may have played in this process, because I have always wanted to invest myself in the lives of others. Isn’t that what we all crave…something larger than ourselves, something to elevate us above our present circumstances and shine our light in the dark places?
So far Emily and I have only met three times, but we are commited to keeping the momentum going. We dutifully sit at my dining room table, books in hand along with writing tablets, and we talk for hours. Some of what Emily has shared, I will never reveal, although she may choose to do so just as she has done with me, but that will be her decision.
Each of us has read the book and completed the suggested assignments prior to meeting together. We have meant to go through the book together as well, but, for now, the need to share our lives seems to overshadow our doing that. Still we are abiding by it’s intent. We are becoming vulnerable with ourselves and with each other. We both want to experience change after decades of stagnation, so we chip away at the walls and barriers we have erected to keep the darkness contained without realizing that instead we were keeping the light from coming in.
Emily tells me she has taken reams of notes, and it is helping her sort out her emotions. The physical analogy would be something like ridding your arteries of plaque or wiping away the corrosion that builds over time caused by wind and rain and all the elements of nature. I have been divorced for a long time, and Emily has been married for many years. I have never met her husband, since Emily is a new friend, but she tells me that her needs for an emotional connection are greater than his capacity to give, and for so long , she has persistently tried to form a more intimate connection with a man who would, likely, give her what she needs if he only could. It’s not that he hasn’t tried, yet it appears that he is a prisoner of his own limitations and Emily has been locked in the cell with him, but now she is determined to reach for freedom from that empty place, even if he must remain.
My friend has likened her relationship to trying to draw water from an empty well, and though she has wished fervently, the well remains dry. This struck a chord with me and I saw a picture of myself kneeling before an empty well, cup in hand, desperately trying to scoop up a few droplets to ease the dryness of my soul. No wonder Emily feels so comfortable sharing this narrative with me. She knows I understand how scarce her water supply has been, because I have been in that same dry place.
Yesterday I stumbled upon Oprah’s “Life Class” on TV, something I never watch. Yet I feel it was not an accident. The show was about relationship restoration, and Pastor T.D. Jakes, was trying to help families reconcile. he said sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that people will not always meet our needs in the way we want them to, and we will just have to accept those limitations. He gave the analogy that some of us have ten gallon jugs to fill, and we are bringing them to people who only have a pint to spare. How many times have I toted that ten gallon jug and held it out with expectation before the pint-bearers? More times than I care to remember.
Jesus says those who drink the living water from His well will never thirst again…that He is the only One who can supply us with life sustaining water and that he keeps our tears in a bottle,…sounds like we can bring our ten-gallon jugs to Him, and there will be an abundant water supply for Emily and me and everyone else who is longing to be filled.
I recently read an article about a lesbian couple who attempted to order a wedding cake from a bakery in Oregon. A Christian married couple owns the bakery. I don’t know the bakery owners, and I’ve never patronized their place of business, but from reading their story, it is clear they try to live out their beliefs, not just by sitting in a pew on Sundays when the world allows us to be “churchy, but by living out their beliefs in all areas of their lives. This couple does not say “see you next week” to God when they enter the doors of their business. They invite Him into their bakery, and that seems to be a problem for some people.
The God we serve wants all of us. He doesn’t want us to put him in a box marked “Open on Sundays” or “Keep Me in the four walls of your place of worship.” No, this God is pretty radical, and He’s kind of the clingy type. He wants to hang out with us wherever we go. He doesn’t want us to be pious and holy at church on Sundays and dancing with the devil on Saturday nights.
Evidently the Christian bakery owners concluded that if they wanted to be in the club, (which in this case is Christianity), they had to be willing to play by the rules and obey the manufacturer’s handbook and everything contained therein. It’s not that they have a vendetta against gay people. From my understanding, they have done business with the lesbian couple on other occasions, which makes sense. If the couple wasn’t familiar with the quality of the products, it is doubtful they would go to the establishment for something as momentus as a wedding cake.
The issue is that the bakery owners believe that marriage is a covenant ordained by God, between a man and a woman, and even if same sex marriage is legalized in all 50 states, as the Hewbrew National commercial used to proclaim “We answer to a higher authority.” I am not trying to stir anybody up here or start a debate. There is enough of that going on, and if you don’t believe the bible is the Word of God, you are never going to agree with the Christian couple. In fact, there are a number people who identify as Christians whohave capitulated on this issue. My intent here is not to make a case for traditional marriage (That’s a whole other post) but to align myself with the business owners who made a choice based on their own deeply held spiritual beliefs.
The lesbian couple have filed a complaint against the bakery, a place they have done business with in the past, and I’m assuming had some type of rapport with at one time. Is this a right step to take soley because the Christian refuses to bake a cake to commemerate a union they believe is ungodly? Why should they have to live with a decision that they feel will displease God? Everybody wants tolerance, but where is the acceptance for people who don’t share your value system and, therefore, don’t want to take part in it? Are the bakery owners throwing rocks at the lesbian couple, picketing them, heckling them, affecting their livlihood, trying to convince other bakeries to boycott them so that no one in town will bake them a cake? Are there no other bakeries in this community willing to take their business?
It seems that some people want more than a live and let live mentality. They want full on acceptance…the “good housekeeping seal of approval” if you will. The CEO of Chick Filet stated that HE believed (get that…personal belief) that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, and look at the can of worms that opened up!
I wonder how far this way of thinking will go. Will bakeries by picketed by satanists if they balk at creating an “all hail to satan” confection? How about celebration cupcakes for a woman who just had an abortion and is so relieved she wants to have a little get together? Will Christians be taken to task in those instances too? Will satanists picket their establishments and try to garner support, because they feel their “civil rights” are being violated?
To try to jeopardize the livlihood of business owners whose big crime is that they are trying live out their faith and support their families is just plain mean spirited and disgraceful.