One of the things that I’ve been able to do a lot more in my new role is be reflective. When I was working in coffee everything had to be done in the moment. Customers wanted their drinks, employees wanted their schedule, things needed to get done in a certain order and time was always in a crunch. This was exciting a lot of the time. I’ve found myself missing a lot of what the coffee industry had to offer but one thing that I’ve been very thankful for at Mt Bethel is the time I’ve had to read, reflect, and plan in greater terms than what’s going to happen in the next hour. I’ve been able to set aside time to dream. Dream of what God might be asking of me and what God is asking of the student ministries. The question that I keep going back to is something that was near to John Wesley: How is it with your soul?
To me this was the guiding principal I see in the small groups in the early Methodist Movement. This also requires a great deal of reflection. Yet I also don’t see a lot of that in this country, people are living moment to moment without a ton of reflection on how their soul is doing. So as I’m asking myself I would encourage you to ask yourself the same thing, how is it with your soul? Have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I’ve discovered that many of these questions make me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because I like to think of my life in terms of being easy. And it is easy. I wake up in a house that I own and can afford the mortgage payments, sleeping next to a wife who loves me and 2 incredible pugs who snore a lot. I go to a job that pays me well in a car that’s reliable and if it breaks down I could afford to fix. I live in a city that is booming one that I have the freedom to choose to live in. I have amazing neighbors. I get to live in a neighborhood of diverse interests, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and religious views but we live together in harmony and I am able to work out what it means to love my neighbor like I love myself. Yet the question of how is it with my soul makes me uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never seriously considered it before. There are many functions to a small group. It could be that they are getting together for purely social purposes. It could be a group that studies scripture together but never gets that deep. It could be a small group that holds each other accountable and are truly close enough to get an honest answer when you ask, have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I think it’s uncomfortable for me because I don’t know if I want to be honest with myself about the answer to that question because I’m so used to living this easy and fun life. If I’m honest about my answers maybe life won’t be so easy anymore.
Last night I gave my first message to the high school students at our Wednesday night programing called Inside Out. In it I walked about what humility is supposed to look like and we repeated together the Litany of Humility. One of the lines that stuck out to me was asking Jesus to deliver me from the desire of being approved. Soon after saying these words together I then was wondering if they approved of me and the message I gave. I was searching to be affirmed, since I am new here it makes sense but at the same time, if I was following after Jesus in the way that He wants me to follow then I shouldn’t worry about being approved, or loved in the standards of this world and with that knowledge I can affirm it is well with my soul.
I’m hoping that I can bring this idea to our Life Groups in the fall. These small groups were started and continue with the idea that we’re supposed to “do life together.” Whenever I think about the words life together I immediately think of Bonhoeffer and the intense book that he wrote about doing Life Together. In this he describes reading scripture, praying, working and living together as iron sharpens iron. I wonder if I am capable of asking the tough questions but more than that, am I ready to answer them. This is how people can grow together by asking the hard questions. So often we think that growing spiritually or growing as a person can be easily handled. But I think true growth is done when things are hard. If I wanted to continue doing something that I was comfortable with and was easy then I would have stayed in coffee and that would have been the easy decision for me. But when you are called, you are sent, and God has sent me to the student ministries of Mt Bethel UMC.
To me this means I’m excited to ask the hard questions of how is it with my soul and to be able to answer them as well. I’ve discovered that as we ask the hard questions even in the awkward silence or resistance to answer there can be joy in the freedom to be honest in a safe environment. To often churches have been places of judgment and dangerous to the people who are honest about their faults. We have an advocate for us when we constantly fall short of being perfect. He is the one who is able to present us to the throne of God without blemish. So as we ask the hard questions and we’re able to be honest with our answers to each other we can sin less and love more. And as we concentrate on loving more we are able to sin less. We are able to do all the good we can, as often as we can, for as long as we possibly can. And that will always make it well with my soul.