Fighting in the Shade

I’ve been in this process for the last several years of figuring out Church. When I read the New Testament I see that we have traveled far and wide from the original Way. That doesn’t mean it is bad or wrong, but it is something I’ve been thinking about and pondering heavily for years. Even before all the things went sour. When the hurt and dysfunction, pain and grief and sorrow, loss and betrayals seeped in, church became an even deeper issue for me. For too many years I held on to “my church”. Determined to not the let the enemy “win” . One day I was speaking with my, oh so wise, son and he reminded me that the enemy wants to steal my worship and as long as I was still choosing to worship the Lord it didn’t really matter which church I attended. I didn’t need to subject myself to the turmoil and angst I was experiencing attending that particular church. {I dearly love this church and the people who call it home and they bear no burden for this place I find myself}

I finally decided to let go of what I could longer hold onto. Not to let go of corporate worship, the gathering of the saints, but to find a new place to gather. I love when friends or acquaintances talk about their churches, the love and acceptance and joy they experience within their church. Most of the time I decline offers to attend with them. On Sundays I’m tired, worn out from the week and I just want to find a place to meet with Jesus. Somewhere that nobody knows my name { pretty much the opposite of Cheers and the Church of the New Testament } I’ve been to several different churches in the River Valley and I have had positive experiences each time. I have to pray and battle hard to cast out and off the spirits of criticism and skepticism and being defensive before I walk in and usually, frequently throughout service. Just getting to and being in corporate worship is hard. I’ve seen all the sides of church in the Bible Belt and y’all is can just be ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Mean and ugly. And sometimes, most times, it just takes too much.

This Sunday I knew I wanted to attend corporate worship. I had several places I wanted to try and just asked Nicole to pick one for me. { I’ve joked about getting a dart board to help me decide} As I drove myself to a new church, that ironically, I had just the day earlier suggested someone else try, but said I had no intention of attending, I asked the Lord, “Why Church? What’s the purpose? I worship and serve you daily, why do I need to go to church”

If you have been in study with me or any conversation about Queen Esther or Spiritual Warfare, then you probably have heard me reference the movie, 300. The Lord has been using this movie to speak to me for years. It is not a “good movie” and definitely NOT a Christian movie. Please for all things Holy, DO NOT, decide to watch the movie during your family movie night. It has a lot of inappropriate scenes, yet for some reason the Lord has used this movie to speak to me powerfully. I watch it several times a month, anytime I need a reminder or encouragement about the battle we are in. If I’m feeling particularly beaten down, I watch the scene where King Leonidas kicks the Persian emissary into a well and screams, “THIS IS SPARTA”. Chills. Y’all seriously, this is how we need to treat the enemy when he comes at us with his ridiculous taunts, schemes and lies. But that’s for another post 😉

So, Sunday I’m talking the Lord and this image from the movie comes to mind, the Persian army is launching thousands of arrows upon the 300 warriors of Sparta, they quickly bring up their shields tight and duck down under cover. The Holy Spirit says to me, “This is why you go to church. Every day you are carrying your shield as the enemy wages war against you and those you love. The enemy is constantly shooting arrows at you. Today you just need to come to a place that you can bring your shield alongside others, still held up, still protected, the battle is still raging, but in corporate worship you get to have a few moments of reprieve from carrying the shield on your own. Protected and yet vulnerable. ”

I prefer not to be vulnerable, it’s not an easy place to choose to walk into. Yet, I know the Holy Spirit dwells there, in my vulnerability. Love, hope, healing and restoration can only be found in our most vulnerable states.

As I worship alongside other believers, some who will never know the level of hurt and betrayal I have experienced through the church, some who choose to be offended over petty things and some who have experienced more anguish than I can ever imagine. I felt all the vulnerability of one who has been deeply wounded and I felt all the safety and security of being covered by shelter of the Most High God. As we lift our heart, mind, eyes and voices in praise and worship we are lifting our shields together, slightly overlapping to provide full cover and a little less heaviness than what we bear alone.

Church can be the most brutal of places. The Lord desires to bring all the broken, lost, hurting, wounded, rejected, arrogant, self righteous, works centered, holier than thou, left wing, right wing, those who have no wings, saints and sinners into His presence, to have intimate fellowship. That’s church, you can’t really escape the dysfunction when your whole purpose is bring all those people together into one building. Then you factor in the enemy who wants to destroy the church and he uses people to accomplish his goals. Y’all every Sunday has the potential to be a massive disaster. Choosing to worship alongside all “those” people while an enemy shoots countless, limitless arrows at us, demands a strength that can only be found in vulnerability.

In that particular scene of the movie, one of the warriors begins to laugh, in the midst of the furious battle, what appears to be their destruction, and he is full on laughing. When asked what is so funny, he references a taunt issued by another warrior earlier in the movie. A different {not in the well} Persian emissary is issuing threats to the Spartans to try to strike fear so they will back away from the battle, he says to the Spartans, “our arrows will block out the sun” to which the Spartan replies, “well, then, we will fight in the shade”.

I still don’t have anything fully figured out about church and where I’ll “end up” but I do know I want to say clearly to the enemy, I shall fight in the shade. There is no kind of freedom like the freedom that comes when you have nothing left to lose, when the battle has made you weary and instead of continually standing on your own, you allow your shield to slightly rest on the one next to you, protected and still vulnerable.

** Side Note. Cause I know y’all are wanting to know:: I attended Kibler Baptist Church. I loved it and in God’s perfect timing and love, Pastor Lee talked about shields and centered his message on Psalm 3. Y’all seriously, our God is just amazing! I’m head over heels about the way He loves us! **

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