Uncommon Fellowship

I have a secret pal at work who really "gets" me. The thing about not knowing who the gift giver is - is really quite fun and leaves a lot of room for interpertation of gifts. When school started, I noticed so many teachers with super cute Scout bags that I had never seen before. I LOVED them. I jotted down on my running to-do list, "Find and buy Scout bag". No lie, the next day, said amazing secret pal has left ah-maz-ing Scout bag in my classroom. Be still my heart.

To me, the joy of a secret pal, is the unexpected extension of kindness, without the giver being given the opportunity to watch how it is received and doing it anyway! Many times the best part of giving a gift is watching the recipient open it! The Secret Pal doesn't have that opportunity unless they are way more mission impossible than I am.  A few weeks ago I received another precious, attentively packaged gift from my pal. I was touched by the items in the bag. They had personal connections to me. Fast Forward to today, my pal had left another package in my room. Spoiled, I know. Hashtag Blessed. Lol. 

I didn't have a chance to open my package at work today. Instead, while waiting in a car rider pick up line, I savored a still moment and decided to open my gift. Inside the box was a very intentional arrangement of my life. The mash up of things inside would look very random to most, but to me, it was the uncommon fellowship of my heart. In the midst of camo, a cross, lipstick and coffee, I saw my reflection.  Not knowing the giver of the gift, I can't ask how she knew the very thoughts inside my head. But, somehow, I have just very recently found myself awkwardly comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable with the many facets of my life that would make some people say, hmmm. Truthfully, at times, make me say "hmm" when I think about my winding path in life and how I arrived here! The more I  surrender, daily,  to Christ,  the more comfort I'm finding in who He made me - camo - and all! Who knew?! 

But, what I also loved about this very thoughtful gift was the humor in it. You see, lately, I've decided to try to not take myself and life so seriously.  Can you see the nail file?... "I never realized how funny I was until I started talking to myself" hit the nail on the head! The hunting socks were inside of the coffee mug when I unpacked my gift. And look closely, do you see what is sitting on top of them in the picture? La Cucaracha was in the coffee mug. It made me laugh out loud.  To me, it was a sweet reminder that I am a mom of boys so no matter how much lipstick I put on... I am still going to have a major "ewww" factor to deal with each day.  It made me think of the woods. It made me think of how in my love for the woods, I still have to deal with the "yuck" in the midst of the beauty. The bugs, the plants that keep you up all night scratching and dare I even say the word, red bugs.  The little plastic cockroach in the cup, whether intentional or not (I think it was...), also made me think of myself. In what could be perceived as a randomly assorted package was the uncommon fellowship of my life. The pieces that make me, me. The dichotomy of the sweetness of chocolate next to a plastic cockroach reminded me of my Christian walk. You see, in the sweetness of Christ, when He illuminated my life, He makes the things (sin) that scurry in the darkness flee. 

The more I seek Him, the more He illuminates. When I don't seek Him daily and lose my way,  the things that make me say, "ewww" begin to creep, scurry to find a stronghold over me.  But, that is the part that is so often forgotten about a Christian walk. Christ is IN me, but Christ is not me.  I am a hot mess. Perfectly, imperfect. I struggle. My flesh and my soul disagree, a lot. Knowing Christ hasn't made it easier. In fact, it's harder. Before I had a relationship with Christ, it was easy to just give in to my fleshly desires no matter the consequences. But along with indulging, was assuming the consequences of my actions and the weight of my sin with no hope for restoration. 

I choose the struggle now. I choose the hope I've found in Him and I am boastful about being a hot mess because in my weakness, He is strong!  In Corinthians, Paul speaks of a thorn in His flesh that he has asked Christ to take from him over and over. Christ responds by saying "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul then says, "Therefore I will BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY ABOUT MY WEAKNESSES, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." So when I say I'm a hot mess, I mean it. I've asked God to take certain struggles over and over and over again. He hasn't. And, I know it is because that is WHERE He is refining my life and where He continues to receive the glory for who I used to be and who He is making me.

Stay with me...I have a point...

The good, the bad, the ugly in the little package of me isn't surprising to Christ. He sees my assortment of "stuff" in my box and says, I made YOU in my image ...now, let me work all of this stuff (the sweet stuff and the things that scurry) and let me transform them for good, for my Glory. It's like He looks at us and says, "Let me allow you to play a role that is so much bigger than YOU - How about you be a reflection of me?!"

Is it easy? No. He's Christ. Is it worth it? Yes! 

I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Catalyst Leadership Conference in Atlanta last week. This year's theme was, Uncommon Fellowship. The beautiful take away I had was about who Jesus actually is and not the "Jesus-in-a-box" that churched and unchurched people can put him in. Jesus loved and still loves people. The good, the bad, the ugly. The unclean, the unsaved, the unrighteous. The messy, the sinful, the stumbling, the striving, the redeemed, the clean, the people like me. The people, like you. 

At Catalyst, Andy Stanley said, "Imagine a world that is skeptical of what we believed, but were envious of how we treated one another." 

How about we stop using Christ to condemn others and simply start by using Christ as our example of how to love them?

What if, like my secret pal did, we paid attention to the people around us? That we loved them for who they are and where they are in life. Even if that means, camo socks, chocolate and cockroaches! Will we prioritize UNITY over our own views of christianity? Are we willing to look past our own version of faith to unite as ONE BODY. Though each one of us is "packaged" definitely, the thing we have in common as Christ followers is Jesus. In the words of Pastor Stanley,  "If your  theology separates you, from sinners like you, you may have some work to do."  Unselfish love, fuels uncommon fellowship. Do unto others as Christ has done for you.  By this everyone will know THAT you are His disciples. 

So, if you had a secret pal packing a gift for you, your box is going to look different than mine. It's going to be delivered to a different place than mine. It's going to have it's own version of you in it. My box isn't better than yours. Your box isn't better than mine.  However, they are different and the purposes of the contents inside,  are left to be determined by the recipient of the gift.  And, the gift alone is aw-inspiring because it is made in the image of Christ, no matter the contents. 

Maybe, we as people, could decide that we can't all be right, but we can be one. We can find uncommon fellowship in our political, religious, cultural, fill-in-the-blank differences.  Our uniqueness in who the Creator made us to be and  the unifying blood of Jesus Christ unites us in His great commission on earth...love.  Love one another, as I have loved you.

I'm pretty certain my secret pal wouldn't expect my interpretation of her gift to arrive here. I'm sure she thought she was just doing something really nice. Showing a little love. Hashtag, she's awesome. But you know what, maybe that is the point. Maybe your act of love towards someone, however great or small, will lead them to place beyond what you could imagine. Maybe YOU and your love will be the first glimpse of who Christ really is and the LOVE he shows. Maybe YOU will be the catalyst for change in our world.