Friday, October 18, 2013

Asking permission

"Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands ..." - I Timothy 5:22(a)

It's happened to just about anyone who goes to a church that believes in the laying on of hands (either for healing or for authorization for ministry, ... there are more instances.)

There's something wonderful about the support that is expressed by touch. It can be a great source of comfort. 

However, it can also be a great source of DIScomfort. It all depends on who you talk to. 

I've lost count of the number of times and situations in various denominations where I've felt the need to go to the altar to pray. And within seconds after I get there, only wanting to kneel and talk to God ... I have gotten pounced upon by some well-meaning extrovert who only wants to impart some spiritual energy. 

Hmm. That kind of assumption has the opposite effect, quite frankly. Nobody ASKed me if they could do that; nobody ASKED me if I wanted to be alone; I had thought that by kneeling, it was an automatic gesture that I need to meet with God. Not His people. At least, not in that instance. However, I guess the one with a hot hand heavy on my back and shouting in my ear (oh, sorry, praying over me....) didn't get the memo. If I had wanted someone else to pray for me, I'd have gone up and stood in front of someone and ASKED. 

Not that I would. At least, not often. 

Asking for prayer opens me up to the personal opinions and pet doctrines of the person I ask to pray for me, because being "prayed for" or "prayed over" puts me in a very vulnerable position. Therefore, I need to implicitly trust that person. I don't usually trust people who assume that because they would like to be prayed for, that I would as well. Besides which, I've had too many people go all "Christian commando" on me ('taking authority' and 'binding the enemy' and all that stuff, stuff I used to do and sometimes still do - in private!) And then they get a whole group of people involved (as if by joining forces they can better twist God's arm). At that point I start to panic, and my simple need gets to be broadcast all over the place without my consent, when all I originally wanted to do was get alone with God and seek His face.

If I refuse their offer ... somehow that's not well-received.

I'd really like to be asked for permission instead of being TOLD to submit to some person's idea of "ministry." Just saying.

The same thing goes for legislated love. ("What in the world is THAT?" I hear someone saying...)

I like to hug people; I like to express my affection for someone, and I like it to be spontaneous. And most of all, REAL.  But an enforced hugging (that is, being told to hug or "love on" someone just because he or she is a believer) is, to me, like a social violation. Quite frankly, I usually absent myself from such exercises.

I'm kind of particular about the person or persons with whom I share personal space. To me, any social situation is riddled with risk. The only reason I go to church gatherings is to obey Hebrews 10:25 - not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  I am still SO not comfortable with mandated mingling. So I duck out. Or I stay in my seat. Or I go get a drink of water ... or go to the washroom or something, ANYTHING to keep from engaging in meaningless (and by meaningless I mean without meaningfulness) social babble.

Photo "Blue Butterfly" is used
with the kind permission of "dan"
 Let me contrast that with something that happened last Sunday morning. 

It had been a particularly rough week emotionally for me; I was (and still am) concerned about the health and safety of someone I love ... and the emotional pain and sense of helplessness has been excruciating. I was totally spent; I had nothing left emotionally, physically, even spiritually. I was exhausted in every way. 

And it was Thanksgiving. It sure didn't feel like Thanksgiving. 

Before the service, while the worship team was practicing, I saw someone I knew and chatted with her a bit. She asked about how I was doing and I knew that she really wanted to know. So I told her. Warts and all. She didn't judge me. She encouraged me, cried with me and hugged me. When she prayed, it didn't sound like she was blaming me or coming up with answers of her own, but just loving me and bringing my situation to Someone who loves me.

It meant so much.

During the service, the music was uplifting (even if it was bittersweet to listen to through the pain), and after the worship time, I leaned heavily on my husband's shoulder while there were some administrative things like announcements and offering, and then someone preached a very short but well-articulated sermon. When hubby left to go back up on the stage and finish up the service with the music ministry team, I let the music wash over my soul again. 

And as I got up afterward, another woman from our assembly was standing there in front of me - and she let me know that she had been praying for me and for my situation, and that she would continue to do so. It was very low-key, and very sincere, and it touched my heart. She asked about that situation (in a way that told me that she cared and that this wasn't a fact-finding mission to fuel gossip later) ... and I shared some information. Then she asked me if it would be okay with me (!!!) if she contacted a friend who might be able to help in some practical ways. 

I was blown away by her respect, by her genuine concern, and by her compassion and gentleness.

Other things happened that day ... among them, the choice of a particular song by a worship leader to sing in practice, specifically to speak to our needs - regardless of  whether we did the song in the service or not. 

Again, so special!

I'm still so thankful that every once in a while, God touches me in unexpected ways and shows me that He is still at work in His church -- that it isn't all about who can show to the most number of people that he or she is most spiritual. God uses real people to minister to real people who have real life issues. Hurting people want ... no, NEED ... that kind of reality. 

If only it wasn't so rare. 

God willing, maybe it won't be.

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