Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Brown Paper Packages ~ The Downside

Early last fall one of our pastors preached a sermon from Ephesians 2 that has stuck with me.  He spoke of the implications of the terms Paul uses to describe us in verse 19.  We are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.  Because this is true, Brian exhorted us to do away with every other category we have for each other.  We cannot look down on others (nor can I look down on myself).  And we can never be exclusive.  I was convicted as I thought about how I sometimes categorize some of my brothers and sisters in the faith.  Although I don’t remember him referring to this reference in II Corinthians 4:7, he could have.  As members of the household, we all carry this treasure (the Holy Spirit) in jars of clay ~ or ordinary clay pots ~ or brown paper packages.  The size and shape of brown paper packages vary but what is most important about all of them is what is inside.  And brown paper is not opaque!

Deb and I have a special friendship.  Along with JA, the three of us share vulnerably from our lives and encourage and pray for each other.  What is unique about our friendship is we live in three different states and a big part of our friendship is by email.  Last week Deb shared this story.  And she graciously is allowing me to share it with you.  Thanks Deb!

I had an experience Tuesday where I really felt like a brown paper package that no one had any interest in.

We just joined a new church and the pastor has been very encouraging and affirming of us. 

There are many marriages struggling in the church so I offered to meet with some wives to encourage them and share some of the treasures that have helped me during the past 25 years.  His wife has a group of 30 young moms she meets with on Tuesdays and she had asked him and another pastor to come and address their questions on marriage and parenting.  He asked if I'd come to and answer a few of the questions so the women could have the opportunity to get to know me.

Now for starters I am severely hearing impaired - I can do one on one, or speak to groups ~  but discussions?  That was way out of my comfort zone.  But I sensed God wanted me to go, so I went.

I get there about 15 min early.  Some women are setting things up.  They barely speak to me except to say they don't need help. So I'm left on my own as the young mom's start arriving.  I try to talk with them but they aren't at all interested in talking with me.  In fact one asks have I been able to find friends my own age?  Most of the time I'm sitting by myself and feeling very alone and on the verge of tears.

When the morning discussion starts, the pastors initiate but soon ask me to address some of the questions.  You better believe I'd been praying James 1:5 for wisdom and the Lord was very present.   What He gave me to share really resonated with the women.  And can you guess what those women did after?  They came up to hug me, thanking me for coming, and one even came up and said, "I would love to sit at your feet" and I'm thinking "you wouldn't even talk to me an hour ago!!!"

So thankfully it ended on a good note - but those 45 minutes were AWFUL! 

And I wonder how many times does this happen in the church - we don't accept people until we see something to approve of?

And that's where your brown paper packages come in Sue - everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made.  So no matter how brown that paper packaging may be there is treasure in there just waiting to be discovered.  Can I look at the people around me eager to accept them as Christ accepts me in order to bring praise to God - seeing them the way you describe Sue - even before the packaging is unwrapped?

Ahhhh, and that’s the challenge.  How can I get to know the treasures that are inside all those brown paper packages, all those people who are part of my household that sit around me every Sunday?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God,”
Ephesians 2:19

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