“So? What do you mean your dress is wet so you are not going?” my mother, the earliest early bird I know, waited for my answer as I got up confused with a slight tugging at my heart I had went to bed with that I did not want to go to church in the morning. Home was alive with the warmth of things baking in the oven, mealie porridge simmering in a pot and hymns playing softly in the background. Mom had slipped into my room and was shocked to find me still under covers, because I knew that church was far and we left home earlier than most. To top it off, I am slow. She couldn’t understand why someone with spectacular snail-pace would still be in bed when we had only an hour and a half to go. I mumbled something that didn’t even make sense to me and she stood there waiting for better. I tried again, “The dress, it’s wet. Still wet. The hem… Too humid. Cold.”
Well she wasn’t having it. she told me I knew very well that washing a dress in the middle of the night with the sun nowhere to be found obviously meant that it most likely will be wet in the morning when the church bells start ringing! What sense is that? “I know since you left for Mmadikolo you now assume you are a guest here but you mean to tell me that in this entire house, in your weekend luggage, in your wardrobe, there is not a single garment you can replace that wet dress with and go break bread with the saints you chose to fellowship with, after seven years of salvation and a baptism memory that is still fresh??”
I relented without much of a fight. I dragged my heavy soul to church that Lord’s Day, dutifully broke bread, and sang my best during the Gospel meeting. But should fellowship ever be considered a drudgery? I sat in the pew in one of my oldest skirts and blouse, the amazing polka dot print of the skirt contrasting wildly with the large florals of the blouse. My head covering was a dusty pink scarf, tied right down to my ears as if to block whatever sermon to be preached. But really, I sat there not hearing a word, nothing seemed to penetrate the coldness of my heart, and I figured had I still been in bed, there would have been no difference. I was going through the motions.
What is going on with you?
A recap of the past few months had shown me the reality of the matter before I could sink further and further from away from the my love for God.
I had lost my first love.
I was nursing wounds from church hurt.
My cross grew too heavy to bear.
Months had passed with my friend, sister and mentor had gotten married and relocated to Scotland. She was the backbone of a thriving youth fellowship. The change had been tremendous that the little comfort I found in those who remained vanished at several instances when the church had injured whatever faith I had left, by act or omission. I admonished myself to never again get attached. Nevertheless really love is attachment, we can’t love without giving a part of ourselves to the other. We can’t fully commit to a local assembly without risking everything while doing so. Sometimes, the very people you rely on for wise Godly counsel are the ones who will fill you with a Deepak Chopra kind of faith, enlarging the emptiness you need filled.
My beautiful cross, which along the way I had embellished with gems and flowers, fabrics of perfection and Tsodilo rocks of strong convictions, loosely held, had grown so heavy for me to bear. To see me was not to know me! To do what I once did was what I sought every day, but I knew I had internally given up on all the convictions I once had, and had grown morally lax. And my popular conclusion was a tartly-said accusation against the entire church body, “You failed me! You failed my faith!” My weeping, which was always ready when witnessing injustice or injury to the glory of God was replaced with a hardheartedness that simply meant “I used to care, but I don’t care anymore.” My heart hurt for all those involved in “harsh” church discipline, and a sidelined category of people prompted a resentment to the rest so strong I chose to stay in every Lord’s Day and lick my wounds.
Growing cold like the church of Laodicea is possible for any church in the world today. So many things, ideas and concepts are bombarding the saints with force that could annihilate the faith of grown men. If so, what of young people who don’t want to be always seen with plain knee-length skirts and beret-caps, and second-hand one inch high heels? What of us, whose ears hear the ever sweet invitation to throw away Godly purity, whose ambitions are driven by the world’s definition of success? What of him, with no room to repent, and her, hurt so bad with no desire to ever do so? Most times, when in my solitude I chide believers’ for the things they omit, I have come to realize I’m only scolding myself. Like King David, I am quick to declare guilt on someone else for crimes I also commit. Me, such perfection, and them, failing me.
Be zealous therefore, and repent.
Later that evening, my mom and I sat on the veranda, after watering the plants, with the sun setting past the encroaching acacia bushes beside us. In the cool evening’s air, we had conversation that often drifted into silence to savor the short time we have together. I will soon leave home to start my own, my presence in this new home we’ve built will be limited to short visits, and for her, the comfort of knowing a dear beloved is home after a long day of work will disappear. But who would have guessed that I plan to stay around longer, avoiding the love bug, until I have satisfied myself…?
Kindly she asked, “What is hurting you?”
I was tempted to tilt my head in defiance like I always did, ready to sweep pressing matters under the rug, which I did rather artfully, denying myself the chance to speak up and be heard.
Slowly, leafing the croton plant next to me, I said “A lot of things. I’m disappointed.” “In who?” “In myself, in others. I want the eternal rest to come. Life is not fair you know. The Lord can deal harshly with honest men. I don’t get that.” She looked at me coolly, most likely remembering the verses I shared with her a few weeks ago from Revelations 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent.”
Of my faith I sought now to pick and choose, and God’s promises, which I had readily embraced before, seemed like a plague I had to avoid, they couldn’t possibly be meant for me. But what is love, friend, if it does not override the storms and sorrows of our lives? If it does not still the doubts and spread balms over our wounds? What is love, if we never get attached? And what is love, if we never return and burn our flames anew? I am so grateful that God in His mercy, stood by me as I navigate the high waters of faith, and is a constant friend even in my rebellious unfaithfulness. I am so grateful.