I usually walk along the dirt road that runs beside the edge of the little lake. But this week the lake was frozen so I walked on the other side, on the lake itself. I have often tried to take photos from the road, but it’s hard to get down to the water’s edge. There are thick brambles and bushes growing along the shoreline. This time I saw the thicket from the other side and realized I had to walk quite a distance before finding a break the width of a snowmobile to get through. I wanted to walk back on the road. I had a completely different perspective of a familiar place as I walked on the lake ice. It made me think about the jokes about walking on water (when the water is quite solid in this part of the world this time of year.)
The thought came: The thing about walking on water is that you have to get out of the boat.
Something else happened yesterday that caught my attention. It was a minor thing, really. I was invited to join a group that prays for a person whose books and ministry I admire. They arranged for a meet-and-greet type of conference call and I was looking forward to making new friends. When I called the number a recorded voice said that number could not be reached from my location. I tried several times. Same result.
I haven’t verified it, but I assume the problem is that I live on the other side of the border from the people hosting the call. It’s frustrating sometimes but we are accustomed, living so close to the USA, to receiving offers on TV and other media that are not actually offers. They are not valid for us. There are 800 numbers we can’t call, videos on the ‘net we can’t see, books and other materials that can’t be shipped across that line.
I thought about the Ktunaxa people who have inhabited this valley for centuries. The valley here, between the Rockies and the Purcells, runs north/south. The western and central border between Canada and the USA, with a few exceptions, is a straight line drawn from the Lower Mainland to the Great Lakes. It did not take into consideration that it would divide a first nations group with common language and culture and cut them off from each other.
My emotional reaction to the inaccessible conference call was out of proportion to the event. These are lovely people who certainly didn’t suddenly pull in the welcome mat. There will be other opportunities to connect. But my embarrassing feelings prompted me to ask the Lord what he was trying to show me here. That’s when it all came flooding in and I wept as I felt His heart.
So often people are cut off from each other in the big C church -the universal church, the ekklesia, the called out ones. We have been cut off by man-made borders and administrative divisions. These borders act like the hedge of thorns around the lake and keep us apart and from accessing what each side has to offer the other. Someone explained to me once that in the way a trellis is meant to support the vine so it might grow and flourish, an organizational structure in the church is meant to support the healthy growth of its people. When the vine is putting the bulk of its energy into supporting the trellis, it’s time to make changes.
In the past few months I have been running into rules and regulations in various denominations that, while preserving the integrity of the structure, do not promote love and connection between all the members of the body of Christ. Like the berms that were meant to protect the city of High River when the flood waters came, instead the rules have served to keep the stagnant water in, and those who wish to bring help out.
At its roots Protestantism was based on protest over doctrine. I believe sound doctrine is extremely important, but sound doctrine states that without love there is no sound doctrine. Denominational lines start forming around people who have something in common, but within a generation or two the habit of protest becomes evident as they assert their differences and proudly glorify themselves like Junior High students at a pep rally chanting “Colonel Irvine is the best!!!” (yes, my Junior High was called Colonel Irvine) “And we are going to beat the pants off the rest of you!”
Lines draw by men cut off communication. Even if you agree on essentials of faith, if you are not a card-carrying, tithe-paying member of a denomination you are not fully accepted. It feels like rejection. The message perceived by “outsiders” is: You are not one of us.
As I walked along the lake, cut off from the road by the thicket it reminded me of the way the church, at least in my town, functions. There are points of contact, but they are few and far between. We are like the Ktunaxa – one tribe, one people- but artificial lines have cut us off from each other. I felt the Father’s heart grieving over this artificial separation and I wept. I love His church, His whole church, and not just one self-protective isolated part of it. This is not the way it is meant to be.
Sometimes following Jesus means getting out of the boat.
Jesus: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34,35)