Life is funny.
One thing I’ve learned while living this funny little life is that Something Bigger Than Us often tries to help guide us along a good path for us. Different people call that Something by different names – the Universe, Karma, God, Allah, The Flying Spaghetti Monster – whatever. Regardless of what it’s named, people in my life report one common thing about the Something – it’s persistent. It starts out trying to nudge you in the right direction. If that doesn’t work, then it will whisper. If you ignore the whisper, it will speak a little louder until eventually it’s yelling at you to pull your head out of your derriere already and listen.
I’ve experienced this a few times in my life. Last year, I was working in a job that I wasn’t happy with, for a company that was going in a direction that I utterly disagreed with. The emotional and mental toll of working there was such that I should have been looking for a job but instead I stubbornly tried to make it work – ignoring the signs, the whispers saying that this was a situation I needed to escape. Eventually, I got yelled at – in the form of a layoff, which provided me a break from a situation that was doing my heart and soul harm. It’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I took 6 months off working entirely, got some relaxation, travel, and nesting-at-home time in, and ultimately found a new job and lived happily ever after.
Except that I sort of didn’t live happily ever after. I did really well for a few months, but then life started throwing me curveballs again. It doesn’t matter what those curveballs are, they caused me stress in several areas, and put me into a situation where I started to lack hope that I can have the kind of life I want. I grew depressed, which I wrote about here. I was upset because of things that already had happened in the past, and because of things that *might* happen that I coudn’t control. I am a bona fide control freak, and multiple areas of my life seemed out of control at the same time. I started taking the actions I needed to alleviate some of my depression symptoms, which was certainly useful, but still was in a bad state. Not as bad as my very worse, but still no picnic.
One of my key tactics for addressing depression is making sure I am in contact with people I care about so that I don’t become too isolated. I can count a number of fantastic friends in my life who are willing to come to my aid when I need and just like other times, they have done so again this spring – some close friends at my explicit request, some because they are acquaintances or Facebook friends who sensed something was off, and some who just stumbled into me on a day I needed to see a friendly face.
Recently, a few of my friends who are more active with their Christian faith than I’ve been have been more present in my life, and I’ve also made a few new friends who Just Happen To Be Christian. I didn’t really think much of this at first, because I live in Kansas where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a few Christians in the head – I thought it was a coincidence. But I realized this week that it was not a coincidence – it was a whisper.
My friend Paul from CrossFit on Track is one of these people. A couple months ago or so, Paul posted some observation about his faith on Facebook that resonated with me – I can’t remember what it was – and then when I saw him at the box a few days later we chatted about it for a few moments. He invited me to come to his church with him, telling me it was a casual place with a great preacher that isn’t into dogma. A lot of people say that about their church, and I wasn’t much feeling like going to church at that point, so I thanked him and filed the information away for a later date. I ignored the nudge.
Fast forward a little while, and I met another new friend who is strong in his faith without being preachy. This person got a partial picture of some struggles I’ve had and some anger I have at God for jacking up the life I had planned, and gave me some advice that probably would have made a lot of people feel much better – but not me. The nudge had become a whisper, but I ignored it. I was too busy trying to figure out how to manage things in my life, to control them.
Recently, my friend Kelly started talking to me about how her faith has helped her from some times in her life that were dark enough I certainly wouldn’t want to exchange them for my issues. Kelly is wonderful, so she managed to crack a little chink in the armor and make me think about how I could go about finding a little more peace. But even though the whisper had escalated to a more conversational tone, I struggled. I was thinking more about my issues, and starting to feel like maybe I was seeking in myself what I should be talking about with The Man Upstairs. But I was not really listening like I should, because I was still busy being mad at God.
Fast forward a few days. I had a really tough week – craziness at work, roadblocks getting in the way of taking care of many little things in life that I need to work on, and a heart that was heavier rather than lighter. I was a mess. I have friends that can attest to it. During this time, a friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to church shop with her because she hadn’t been attending church for a couple of years, and while her children wanted to go back to church her husband wasn’t interested. She had even picked out a place to try that sounded neat. I had a tailor-made opportunity to seek solace more actively with someone who has similar views as me. And you know what? I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. I even suggested another friend that she could call who I knew was also thinking he might want to get back to church to be her church shopping buddy. The conversational voice had turned into a stern talking to, and I still didn’t listen.
Then Saturday, I checked my facebook feed. My good friend Kelly posted that she was excited to go try a new church the next day. In the ensuing comments about her status, I learned that she was going to attend a place called Life Church in Olathe – which sounded familiar. I dug around in the recesses of my brain and realized HEY – I think that’s our CrossFitting friend Paul’s church. A few minutes later, the power of social media confirmed that my recollection was right. Along the way, she pointed out that there was a sermon series starting that very week that was titled – I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – “CrossFit”.
You would THINK that at this point, I would have started listening and told Kelly and Paul that I’d join them for church on Sunday. If you thought that, you thought wrong. I turned down the opportunity because I had a weigh-in appointment scheduled at the box during the church service. I had already rescheduled the appointment once and was starting to feel like an ass, so I told Kelly that I expected a full report on the service and that if she liked it, I would go with her another time. She said that she understood and would give me the full scoop when I saw her.
At this point, I’d had kind of a physically and emotionally taxing day. It being Saturday afternoon, I decided that the most productive use of my time by a mile would be to lay down and have a nap. So I curled up in my cozy bed under my cozy covers, turned off the lamp, and shut my eyes.
And I couldn’t sleep. Not at all. I was restless, which makes not a lick of sense given that I shortchanged my sleep all week and had been out with friends the night before. I tried for quite a while to doze off to no avail.
Why, you might ask?
Because I was being yelled at. Loudly. The message was “You will go to THIS church with Kelly and Paul TOMORROW. Period.”
Getting this message was a little confusing for me. I’ve always felt like that “God talking directly to you” stuff required a burning bush or something – I can’t say I’d ever experienced it myself. But this message? I will confess that it had to be repeated before I figured out what was happening. Once I put two and two together, I texted Amanda to reschedule my weigh in appointment, and texted Kelly to tell her I’d be joining her.
The minute I sent those texts, I rolled over and went to sleep. I had a sorely-needed nap of about an hour and a half and it was delicious.
The service the next day was good. I’ve been to a lot of services in a lot of different kinds of churches, and this is the best I can remember. In the churches I attended growing up, there was a lot of following along in the bulletin or responsive reading from the back of the hymnal. Church almost felt like an intellectual exercise than a spiritual one, which doesn’t seem quite right. But I’ve also attended a lot of so called “Contemporary Christian Services!” that didn’t feel right either because they seemed to be all style, no substance – like the people were more interested in putting on a show than in reaching the congregation with anything meaningful.
This service? It was intelligent, accessible, thoughtful, and spiritual. The service lasted two hours (which is utter HERESY for United Methodists, want their church to start at 10:45 and end at 11:45 so they can be home for the noon kickoff of the football game) and I neither knew nor cared that it had gone on that long. The praise team leading songs at the beginning of the service actually seemed to be, you know, praising. And the principles behind the CrossFit sermon series were spot on – the pastor got CrossFit (the fitness discipline) correct, and made a scripture that I’ve heard my entire life Actually Make Some Freaking Sense for the first time. And to cap it all off, the program is intriguing enough that I’m actually planning to do Life Church Workouts of the Day throughout the next month that the CrossFit sermon series is going on. The last time I even considered studying scripture every day was *never*, but I think Someone Who Might Happen To Live Upstairs knows that about me and put a perfect means for me to have a place to start looking at Him differently.
I got yelled at.
And I did what I was told.
And a little bit of the sad I’ve been carrying got washed off.
I’m glad I finally paid attention.
If you’d like to work on your Constantly Varied, Functional Faith, Performed at a High Intensity by doing Life Church Olathe CrossFit, visit http://www.lifechurch.org or like the Life Church Olathe page on facebook to see the Workout Of The Day!