It was one of those moments you can’t predict or coerce.
The Original Good News, this ever-growing tribe of grace, is attempting to fan into a new reformation and it does not always travel well. It’s the oddest phenomenon; by its very nature grace desires to release a response of joy, safety, hope, freedom and kindness. But because many of us have been living in the Room of Good Intentions, we are leery, cynical, and mistrusting of the message and the messengers. Grace is often met with a response of malaise, condescending indifference…or a mob with lit torches in one hand and sticks protruding with rusty nails in the other.
Given the fact that I would like to be loved and adored by every man, woman and child in the history of mankind, it makes me wonder, often, if indeed I’ve hooked up with the wrong message. I would have done much better working for Hallmark Greeting Cards, or a company making tater tots. Almost everyone likes tater tots.
Even those who embrace and carry this message can be rough, as they doubt and blame you for ever introducing them to this message that is now simultaneously freeing them to some and distancing them from others.
It is truly as Machiavelli declared, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from the fear of opponents, who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in the new things until they have long experienced them.”
So, each time Bill, Bruce, David, our wives, or any of our community go out to a new place, we want to be so fully open and embracing and give everything we have. But at the same time we’re each anticipating those awkward, guarded stares, while sniffing the air for lit kerosene.
And then there was last Sunday afternoon, in a Midwest city named Grand Rapids.
Truthfully, I was expecting little of my chances at the gathering. 1 in the afternoon, after lunch, after church, in a fairly stuffy room, with a built in opportunity, after the message, for people to ask questions…or tear out my spleen.
I should have known something was up, by the prayers of Ron and Kevin, just before going out into the talk. They appeared to be begging God that people’s hearts would be open. Those are the prayers people utter before a Communist party representative prepares to deliver a manifesto at a “meet and greet” in your own home.
Meanwhile, God is sitting in the back of the room, obscured behind a potted plant, with his arms folded behind his head, smiling and thinking, “Oh, this is going to be good.”
I have experienced before what happened next. But I must admit, in this season, preoccupied with some of my own issues and struggles, I’ve missed it. Suddenly I was up there at a music stand, speaking. And from the moment I opened my mouth I was absolutely right in the pocket, speaking with passion and absolute abandonment, these truths that have saved my very life. For the next nearly two hours, we were all together in the same boat, taking turns at the oars. God allowed us all to put on hold our previous biases, prejudices and lesser theological warhorses. We were together, risking the same words of Scripture, together as nearly one.
We were laughing, crying, imagining and hoping. I was sweating like a mule in a Malaysian sauna, frenetically running around like a kid telling best friends about free toffee he’d discovered.
The questions asked and the fully embraced responses from kind and grace-infected hearts created its own environment; of safety, hope and dreaming. Suddenly, I was in the midst of a room of lifelong friends, exploring and believing together, confident God was in our midst.
They were similar words I’d spoken before, but there was an uncommon freedom, confidence and sense that I was right in the absolute middle of God’s heart, that he was turning water into wine, amidst others living out what Ron and Kevin had prayed minutes before.
It all left me with the sense that God might actually be doing it, allowing the Reformation of sanctification by faith through grace to take the beach. I wish you could have been John Lynch for those several hours. For it marked me. It overwhelmed me. It renewed me. It showed me a picture of a day I think I’ve only hoped would happen.
There are seasons of human history when God revamps, renews and takes the train off the rails onto a magical course made of pure wonder. A supernatural reset. At least for a moment, in a stuffy room in the Midwest, I dared to believe that time might not be far off.
I know many of you are having similar experiences. Freedom and life and healing and love and darkness receding. In spurts and glimpses. But often enough to be convinced it is happening.
Well, reporting in from the Midwest, God is absolutely and undeniably on the move. I just spotted him behind a potted plant.
John, one of the three amigos, part of the ever-growing room of Grace.