I grinned at my friend, Amy*, as we sat cradling cups of steaming coffee, delighted to be together again after weeks of social distancing. How good it had felt to give her a hug hello an hour earlier. Now, happily reunited, here we sat in a bustling café.
Amy was one of my all-time favorites. Her faith is deep, she makes me crack up laughing, and our coffees often extend into hours. This time was no different. Chat chat chat, we went.
Then it happened. The conversation turned to her church, and she began to share how much she and her husband were enjoying their ‘small group’. Cheerfully, she began to describe the group: A group of couples. Each of the couples was so supportive, deeply connected to God, and yet there were no pretences there, they were very real about their struggles. She went on to describe how much they did together and the meals they had on Saturday nights.
This beautiful friend of mine was sharing with me her blessing. I knew the back story: She and her husband had previously struggled to build a couples social life. Given that, I should have been thrilled for her. But you know what? At the risk of sounding like a terrible person, I'm going to tell you: Something appeared in my heart that wasn’t of God. It was a prickle. A thorn. It bubbled up and I felt myself go Grr.
Envy. From my struggles of attending church alone I’m sorry to say that some unhealed prickles in my heart came to the surface. Uggh.
Envy hit me; and I could have batted it away. But instead I fed it a little. I sat there at that café table and began to feel it: Frustrated with the church social scene -- Well, frustrated with my inability to take part in it.
I suspect a few who are reading this can imagine the prickles. As SUMites we struggle to fit. We don’t blend easily with the couples crowd at church, and social events can be no-go zones. But that being what it is, once I got home I realized something from this café-table moment: I realized that I need to learn to be gracious within my own circumstances. I had a friend in front of me and she deserved my cameraderie.
Importantly, God tells me to LOVE.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NKJV).
In fact, God is love. And then, here's the deal: 1 Corinthians 13:4 says "Love does not envy." Love does not envy. I suppose when we envy we are not appreciating our own blessings, and we are failing to rejoice with others.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice." (Romans 12:15, NIV)
Putting this together, then, I have a way forward: The next time my dear friend shares with me her blessing of this small group (which is a blessing), I'm going to do something different: Celebrate it!
This is just one story of my own, but I thought it was a good way of introducing our next series for September. Starting next Friday, the series is going to be called Did I Learn to Love? and we'll be taking some of the words from 1 Corinthians 13 to chat about what they look like practically in our circumstances: SUM circumstances.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NKJV)
In these posts there might be the odd war story or two. After all, SUM living has a lot of material to work with, and it's pretty edgy. Our love challenge is not just about our spouses; it's also about learning to love the church, and others. So, let’s fasten our seatbelts ready for next Friday. Before then, though, Lynn and Ian will be back on Monday and Wednesday.
Which of those words in the passage above (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) is most challenging for you, and why? I'd love to hear a little of your own experiences.
Until next week!
* Not her real name