From Busyness to Malice - Separating from Community

by - April 12, 2010

In the song "By Thy Mercy", J.J. Cummins writes:

From the depth of nature’s blindness,
From the hardening power of sin,
From all malice and unkindness,
From the pride that lurks within:
By Thy mercy, O deliver us, good Lord, good Lord.
Last night, I was on my way to deliver some tomato plants to a friend, who was volunteering at church, and was debating sticking around for the service. I was in preggers' sweats and still a little dirty from the garden. Joe was at home working on something else for church while he waited for Scooby to wake up from his nap. As I handed over the tomatoes, I told my friend that I'd been feeling pretty distant from church and was getting a use to it (even proud of it), and she responded that maybe I needed to stay. "Getting used to it" wasn't an appropriate phrasing. "Growing cold" or "growing hard" would have been more inline with what I was experiencing.

I slipped into a back row where I could sit with my legs crossed and not have to interact with people around me. Ironically, the topic of the sermon was pride - something Joe and I had discussed no less than an hour before in the context of why people develop issues with the church and eventually leave. It seemed more than a little providential that I was sitting there, as it does nearly every time I come feeling vulnerable and in need of truth.

I've written several times about being resigned to live and serve in certain seasons of life, but sometimes we experience unseasonable weather from which we need to take cover. Over the past month or so, our family has been busy either with work related things, visiting family or sickness, and we've been unable to make it to our community group in almost five weeks. We missed church last Sunday and several weeks earlier in the year due to various circumstances, and I've found myself in an ugly place.

To clarify, my faith cannot depend on Sunday services and community group - waxing and waning with my attendance. The same is true of my perceived acceptance by God. However, involvement in community and making myself available to the instruction and correction of fellow followers of Jesus is vital to growth and accountability. I've noticed a trend in my life of the progression from business to malice that goes like the following.
  1. Busyness: One unavoidable conflict leads to the justification of avoidable conflicts to the allowance of any inconvenience to disrupt involvement in community activities and commitments.
  2. Loneliness: The time missed with community leads to isolation, unprocessed struggles, lack of good conversation and laughter.
  3. Insult: Eventually, enough time away leads to feeling like an outsider and being angry about not being missed, regardless that this was completely by choice.
  4. Pride: Feeling like an outsider leads to the construction of walls and the "Who needs them, I'm fine on my own" attitude. It's all shun before being shunned.
  5. Malice: As the us/them mentality continues, more perceived differences and insults pile up in the head, more bitterness and distance grows in the heart and the unresolved sin leads to anger not only at community but God as well.
I think this might be a progression that many people go through leading up to separation from the church entirely. We want to be pursued and needed, and in our pride we forget that we need and are to pursue community. While solitude is a scriptural state that God can bring on a person, this I was experiencing was unseasonable weather. It was dry and dusty, and I needed to pull out the garden hose and just soak in it until it passed.

As the music picked up again after the service, I sat in silence reflecting on the words:
I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away,
And frights my soul away.
I would but can't repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne'er relent
Till Jesus makes it soft,
Till Jesus makes it soft.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

-Red Mountain Music "Help my Unbelief"

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  1. Amen and amen, Paige. I relate very much to all that you said and also the songs that you quoted specifically.

  2. I agree Paige. I feel like I've been going through very similar cycles as of late. love you dear.



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