Thorns Infest the Ground

imagesI’ve been thinking a lot lately about people who no longer come to City Pres, and that makes me sad. I miss them. I hope the best for them. I pray for them. And I feel like I disappointed them.

I know I haven’t disappointed all of them. Many – perhaps most – have left because they moved away. These are usually incredibly happy and fortuitous situations and they go with every single blessing I can muster. We hate to lose their gifts and talents, their invitations, their encouragements, but we also know another church in another city can benefit so much from our dear friends.

But the rest have left for other reasons. Some because they realized a church plant wasn’t what they wanted. Or our programs weren’t a fit. Or they didn’t feel welcomed. Or they disagree with a theological position. Or they had a better opportunity to serve somewhere else. Or – they just left without explanation. Perhaps the conversation would have been too difficult to have, and this was a kindness to me in the long run.

I know this will happen. Bobby and I talk about it even in our New Member’s Class. People will leave and we want them to leave both happy and well. We get it.

Ah, but it still hurts.

I think it hurts because I did care about them, or tried to or wanted to. Sometimes I cared a lot. So I don’t take it personally – oh wait, yes I do take it personally. Very personally. I try to think that it wasn’t my fault per se. But how can I think that? It is my fault. At least generally. Things weren’t good enough. Things weren’t what they wanted. Even if I understand that I couldn’t have made it so, I still wish that I could have.

There are incredible stories of rescue and restoration happening all around me. I don’t want to be robbed of joy by fixating on these departures. So I try to block them out. I try to not care about it. I try to move on. And I suppose that is effective at times. But mostly I’m saddened by it, and somewhat hurt. It’s not a business, so you can’t just serve the next customer. It’s far more personal than that.

So this phenomenon is a tough one. We invest more than time and money. As Paul writes, we invest our very selves into this endeavor – or we’re supposed to.

In Joy to the Word, we sing in verse three: No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground.

There are deep, deep sorrows. This sorrow I’m talking about pales in comparison to many others in your life and in mine. I’m just talking about one tiny sliver of a fallow row on a huge huge field. Yet I still think of it. It still gets to me. I can’t just shake it and move on to happy jolly Santa or even weird creepy Santa Baby.

I’m not sure what this says about me. Maybe I’m obsessed with everyone liking me (I am). Maybe I want to control everyone’s lives and create a cult where no one can ever leave… I don’t think that’s it. Maybe I’m longing for something more or something greater, a place where Christ makes his blessings flow as very far as the curse is found in every spot and crevice of the whole universe, including my heart. That’s what I’m singing about this Advent and Christmas. Loudly. Slightly off-key. Trying to be confident and trusting. Hopeful but not always sure.

I want the best for my friends who have left, and they don’t have to have good reasons. And they all have good reasons even if my heart is hurt. I want to be for them in every way. This isn’t meant to be some weird passive aggressive post that guilts them into having conversations with me.

I don’t want to miss on grace and blessings as far as the curse is found. I want to celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. That Christ is redeeming all the way down, this very far and that that indeed is joy to the world.

No more let sins and sorrows grow Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found Far as the curse is found

Far as, far as the curse is found

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager