Our guest for the summer, she needs a name... how about Lilly?
Well, Lilly came with me today to a wedding. It was a Christian wedding, but not the one I would have chosen for her to come to. It was a wedding of a couple who had been living together and had one child and are now marrying. Part of me cringes, wanting to show Lilly perfect Christianity. But this is the wedding we went to. I have cringed a few times in church, too, thinking, "Oh no, why did they have to say THAT now?!" But I've learned to trust... I am learning to trust. I've come to the solid conclusion that God is sovereign. He has brought Lilly here to us in this time, and He is in control of what people say and do in church, and yes, even in who gets married this summer. Doesn't mean I haven't frantically prayed a few times in church, "please, Lord, stop him from saying....." And God did.
So we went to this wedding. Before we went, she asked some questions about how normal it is for people to have a child before marriage. I was honest and said that in the culture where we live now, it is not uncommon unfortunately, but it is not right. I said that Christians believe that is wrong, very wrong.
Her next question was a difficult one to answer. She asked if it was seen as wrong as it was in her culture. Hmm.. yes and no. It is seen as wrong, very wrong, yes. It is a shame. This family was greatly disgraced and the father resigned from his position as an elder in the church because of what his son did. It is wrong. But..... the difference is that God chose to make a way for us to return to a relationship with Him after we have done wrong. That is why He sent Jesus to earth to carry our sin and shame and make a way for us to return to a close relationship with God. So, while it is very wrong... we still have forgiveness. Just as I have forgiveness and the taking away of my shame, so do these two. And as Christians, we forgive because we know we are forgiven.
She thought about that.
Then this evening, a food was served which she would not eat. I watched very carefully so she would not be served it without her knowing. Do I think it is a problem? No. But I will honor her by being careful for her. Yet we sat at a table where others who used to be in the religion she was in sat. They ate this food, and she was not offended because she sees other people do it, but she questioned. "Can you eat that as a Christian? Is it not dirty?" She had asked me earlier, and I had replied with what Jesus had said that it was not what we ate that made us dirty, but what was in our hearts. When she repeated the question to our team member at our table, he explained the same thing - that what we eat goes in us and comes out and can not defile us. That what defiles us is the evil in our hearts. It is that which makes problems, and God is more interested in the heart than the intestinal track. She listened carefully, then nodded her head and said, "That is completely logical. Of course."
She also asked today about the dress and behavior of some of those in the wedding. Again I cringed, wishing we could only show her "beautiful Christians". I told her the truth - that some of that family were not Christians. That thought puzzled her and she asked how different people in a family could be Christians and others not. I explained that Christianity is not a belief on the outside. It is not a list of rules or things we should do. It is much deeper. It is a choice from the heart to believe in and follow God. No one can make someone else chose to follow God from their heart. They could say, "you have to do this or that" but they can not make someone think any way. So it is impossible to make someone a Christian and so it is possible that in one family some may chose to obey and follow God and others may not. This was also a new concept to her and she thought it over carefully, but agreed that it does make a lot of sense.
So through the things I cringed about today, I saw God speaking one message to her. It is the heart that He is concerned with, not the external, and while we all have hearts with sin and shame, there is forgiveness.
The reception was full of speeches, not glossed over happy wishes for a good life, but real people sharing how they struggled with the situation of their unmarried teens expecting a child, about the embarrassment and anger they felt, but how they had seen these two people decide to get right with God and grow to know Him. They shared now that they are proud of their children for making the difficult right choices with the pregnancy. They shared the hope and the love God has given them now. Forgiveness and restored honor lived out in front of the whole wedding. Maybe God knew what He was doing in choosing this particular wedding for her to go to.
Drip, drip, drip.... little pieces of truth.
God commanded that we teach as we sit, as we stand, and as we walk in the way. We walk one more month with Lilly here. Pray that we continue to teach as we walk. Pray for her heart to ponder the things she has heard. She is listening with intent.