Being a part of a community of believers, whether through church or Bible study or faith-based Facebook groups or something else, is a beautiful and encouraging thing … until disappointment in someone or something strikes, and it most definitely will, and then it’s not as much fun. I tried a new Bible Study this week. It was so great! The people felt so welcoming, the songs sung stirred in my heart, the Scripture discussion challenged and nourished me, and I just felt appreciative and appreciated for being there. I found my place. I loved it … until disappointment hit … and it hit hard.
Before leaving I found out that my severely food allergic child was given a homemade cookie against my wishes. It was devastating. (If you are someone with allergies or someone who cares for and advocates for a person with anaphylactic allergies, your heart probably fell into your stomach just reading that.) For whatever the reason, miscommunication, human error, spiritual attack, or any combination, it happened. Now I want you to understand that I can be quite the Mama Bear when advocating for my child, but for some reason this day my claws didn’t pop out immediately. On this day, God knew what was coming and He had been working on my heart and on surrounding me with the right people, gentle yet courageous type people. He had placed in that place a specific friendly face, from the homeschooling community I am a part of, that also has a child with severe food allergies. (She later confessed that God nudged her to make sure to attend that day.)
When my internal alarms started going off and the adrenaline quiver began, I turned immediately to her for support and guidance. God was whispering to me that it was going to be ok and that I should watch my reaction (primarily my brazen tongue). However, as many of you may know, adrenaline doesn’t calm easily and a quiver is usually just the gateway to a whole flood of emotions. So, I will shamelessly admit that I cried, a lot. I was so incredibly shaken because of the very real possibility that my son could potentially die from my choice to bring him there that day, from misunderstanding, from poor choices, and possibly from the disrespect of my expressed personal guidelines to help keep him safe.
I know God doesn’t give us children and then instruct us to “just keep them alive”, because it’s not always our choice or His Will, but I definitely internalize that as one of the ways I properly care for them and love them. I’m sure you are right there with me on that. When their lives are threatened in any way, by anything, we become a lion protecting its tribes and especially its cubs (even if my roar tends to look more like searching for information, watching for symptoms, teaching, praying, and yes, even sobbing).
Praise God, my child did not have a reaction that day. I am so, so grateful. Now that the danger has subsided and the outcome positively concluded, I am looking back in awe of what I experienced and how active God was in it all. I was new in this community of believers and they surrounded me during this confusing and terrifying time. They did not take my disappointment as an attack and put their defenses up, they came in swarming with concern and kindness. They stepped up as advocates on my and my child’s behalf. They validated the severity of the situation and at the same time were calmly reassuring. I was a lost sheep, alone and in need, and they came running, not like a shepherd, but like a group of shepherds, all united for a purpose. It was a beautiful example of what a body of believers, a community gathered to glorify Him truly should look like. Our perfect shepherd is not physically here anymore, but He called us to finish what He started, to follow the example He gave, to join together to help each other shepherd.
I’ve been reminded of a few things through this experience:
- THERE WILL BE DISAPPOINTMENT: This situation happened there, but it could’ve easily happened anywhere or even at home. I am glad that if it were to happen, that I was in a place where God was active and sought out, and with people who have humble servant hearts focused on loving and uplifting each other. This was not a face off situation. There were definite strong emotions, but they all stemmed from love, and anger was not involved.
- WE ALL DISAPPOINT: The body of believers is comprised of humans, imperfect humans who make mistakes, and who are all also warriors in constant spiritual battles. This incident usually would make me immediately cross this activity off the list as a potential and never attend again. Sometimes, I just want to hide in the comfort of my controlled safe environment, but I (even in my own environment) am no different from them. I, too, am someone who falls short, who fails, who makes a ton of mistakes, and yet I, too, feel God’s call to draw near to Him, and to gather with and encourage fellow believers, to live in unity and to show each other glimpses of God in how we share our faith, how we speak and act, and how we love.
- FORGIVENESS COVERS DISAPPOINTMENT: All I can think about is how much I want to share my forgiveness with those directly involved. I know what it’s like to rack your brain finding every tiny thing you did that led to that outcome, to go over all the things that you wish you could’ve done differently, and to pray that you did not hurt someone or turn them away from the community or the faith because of your known and unknown mistakes. If those people are out there reading this, I forgive you. I forgave you the second the adrenaline started letting me think clearly again, before I even left the parking lot. Would it have been different if it would’ve ended up in a reaction and we’d left in an ambulance instead? It’s hard to say, may have taken me a bit longer, but the thing is that God knows their hearts and He continuously reminded me that they were not malicious and in fact quite devastated. My own heart tells me that they want to have the opportunity to understand, and to learn from this, so that we can work together for the glory and honor of God, and the safety of all.
- GOD IS BIGGER THAN DISAPPOINTMENT: God stood beside my family through this and surrounded us with support, but fear does not come from God. He understands it and even uses it occasionally, but He does not call for it. He equips me to keep my kids safe and to act when they aren’t, but he does not equip me for a life of solitude and control. I am not the God here. I am not truly in total control, and if I am not truly in total control, then I certainly don’t want to be left alone to figure this all out by myself. God does not judge the whole heart based on a few dents and bruises and smudges of sin. He knows that heart is good and strong and capable, because He created it and because it seeks Him and loves Him, so He washes it clean, mends it up, and leads it back out again and again. I came face to face with one of my biggest fears, and I was not alone, and we got through it together. I choose now to praise God for that and for the courage and wisdom that it provided. God is much bigger than our mistakes and He is neither surprised by nor intimidated by them.
- THERE IS GOODNESS BEYOND DISAPPOINTMENT: God can work goodness in all situations. My kids and I have already started taking time to remind each other about ways we can keep ourselves and each other safe in different situations. My child with the food allergy now has an experience to look back on, and relate to, as we discuss choices and scenarios. I also am working on better ways to effectively communicate, train, and remind children’s ministry leaders & volunteers of busy classrooms how to keep children with allergies safe. This experience has also really strengthened my faith and my understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of believers, and just how important and impactful it really is.