Once, in Tokyo, I sat in a Denny's with my stateside program director and my Japanese program director. They asked me, among other things, about the inter-denominational work I was doing. This led to a discussion about the difference between a "theology of the cross" and a "theology of glory". I found myself arguing that the theologies were two sides of the same coin...one a mark of our complete dependence on God and the other the glory of God that flows through us as a result of the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit. My Japanese program director exclaimed, "That's very Lutheran!"
Sometime around then, I was worshiping in "the church next door to my church." An Assemblies of God church called GAP (Gospel Assembly of Praise). There is a time for sharing and prayer requests, and one girl told us a fairly heavy burden. The pastor invited her up, and invited all of us to pray for her. We got up and gathered around her...it was one of those times when I felt a particularly strong need to pray, and so I didn't even think...I leaped up and laid hands on her along with some others. It wasn't until we were done praying that I realized that the people who had laid hands on her and who had prayed aloud were: the pastor, two girls from the worship team, another girl strongly involved in church leadership, and me. Thankfully, it seemed that was fine. One of those church leaders said to me afterward, "You fit in really well here."
I've tried to describe my need for both churches to various people. In one discussion it came down to: I worship with my mind with the Lutherans, and I worship with my heart at GAP. To another person I confessed: I feel a lack of freedom in the Lutheran church when I'm happy, and I feel a lack of freedom in the Assemblies church when I'm sad. Lutherans look at you with funny eyebrows if you throw your hands up in the air or suggest that dancing is one of the best ways to worship. Pentecostals look at you with a "deer in the headlights" expression if you tell them that you're very frustrated with something you're doing for God...God is going to come through, after all, isn't he? (these are all stereotypes, of course...and I'll be the first to let you know that there are people throughout both churches that shatter the stereotypes)
My hometown has 27 churches for 7000 people. Compare this with Tokyo which has a little more than half a church per 7000 people. But even with all those options, I haven't found a church where I can get that "GAP" style worship and still attend my home Lutheran congregation in the same week. Starving for "hands in the air", "spirit-led" worship, I finally gave in and attended a local foursquare church yesterday morning as a break from my regular home church.
The worship was what I was longing for, and it filled me somewhere very deep. I had to be very amused as well, because the pastor got up for his message and started talking about change and transition. His whole sermon centered around the idea of God forcing us into times of change we wouldn't have chosen for ourselves with the purpose of giving us a broader picture of who He is. A few things he said really struck me. One was that, in times of change, in his experience, God won't give enough answers to satisfy our attempts to cling to a feeling of security. God wants us to trust Him, not to feel like everything is secure and worked through. He also said that, in any time of change, we would have a choice. And the choice is this: 1) grumble or 2) allow the life of Jesus to flow through you in the midst of the uncertainty or pain.
I like being told I have a choice. I feel like God has been dead silent about whatever my future holds...even as some choices have had to be made and discussions and searching begin...I sometimes feel like all my future thoughts are conducted with God just silently watching, an unreadable expression on His face. That kind of eerie silence that eventually drives me back to him with some kind of exasperation...saying something like, "What?! Be happy for me! Be mad at me! Be sad about what I'm doing! Be...anything other than silent!"
And, truthfully, he hasn't been silent. If I could summarize my interactions with God over the past few weeks into a short conversation, it might go like this:
Pamela: God, where am I going? Am I messing up? Am I overstepping in any way? Am I hoping for something I shouldn't be hoping in?
God: Put me first. I'm the only one you can trust.
Pamela: Right. Got that. Now...since I'm trying to put you first, how about letting me know if these future talks are getting in the way of anything you're planning for me?
God: Have you noticed the special place you're in right now? You really don't want to miss it.
Pamela: I don't think we're talking about the same thing here...
God: You're right. I'm talking about where you are. I'm setting life and death before you in your present circumstances...choose life!
Choices...to grumble, or to be life-giving? There's something about being told: "you're choosing between grumbling and allowing Jesus to work through you" that fills me with determination. I want so badly to learn how to serve him and be faithful to him in this day to day stuff...in the indefinite with no goals, agendas, or plans.