Shabat Thoughts: Expecting
A month or two ago, John had come in from work and stomped into the house. He was agitated, that was clear. I don't do agitation well first off in the morning, especially without warning, but I'd had my Bible study before he came in and was more at peace and better able to cope quietly that particular morning.
John marched over to the table to take up his Complete Jewish Bible; he pointed to the menorrah (a seven branched candleholder used in synagogue), the Chanukaniah (a 9 branched candleholder to light during Channukah), the Tzadakah box (a small wooden box where we deposit our charity monies each week). He opened the door and pointed to the Mezzuzah (a small box nailed to the door frame that contains a scripture roll). "I have all these things..." he said as he pointed to each one, "I have these things to remind me that Yeshua was a Jew, who LIVED the faith as His father intended, but why do I not have a single cross anywhere in my home to remind me of the most important thing of all, that He DIED for my sin?" In truth, I recognized that my husband had just hit upon what was really at the root of my restlessness of late. That is not to say that Messianics do not believe in salvation or deny that Jesus died for them. They do indeed teach and believe those things! The focus tends to be directed more towards the Jewish roots of the Christian faith than it is toward the end result.
I waited as he told me the things that were on his heart, about frustrations he was having where his personal ministry is concerned, things he'd expounded upon again and again and for which we'd been in prayer. Frankly there was nothing new, and nothing either of us could do except what we'd been doing: pray and wait. In other words be in a state of expecting...
Last week was miserable. Dark heavy clouds, rain, cold temperatures. The idea of trekking about in it, driving for over an hour to go to synagogue and another hour back again was our undoing. We stayed home. We've been noticing a lack in our lives of late, something we just can't deny. The previous Shabat at synagogue, as the Rabbi spoke, a visitor got excited and cried out. The shocked silence that followed, the way the Rabbi looked at him, the hurriedly continued speech of the Rabbi saddened us. It was clear that this was not 'normal'... Something in me had leaped high when that man cried out. I waited expectantly for the man to continue but nothing more came. The service continued without another utterance.
Just as I once hungered and cried out that I needed to know God's intended faith, I realized that I also need to hear those cries of the impassioned heart...and more. I long to see people crowd around an altar. I long to hear testimonies. I long to see the repentant and the hurting and the praising people arise and cry out. I want, in short, not just a New Testament or an Old Testament faith. I need a WHOLE faith, that brings together all of it. As we left synagogue that day, John asked me once more, "What are we doing wrong? What are we missing? Why aren't we getting this?" And I found myself with tears in my eyes telling him in a very hurt voice, "I can't do this anymore." I'd known for some time that I'd reached that point but John wasn't there yet. I sensed this day though that something had changed. I was expecting.
And so we as we sat here at home on Shabat and we prayed, John asked me, "How do you feel about going to church tomorrow?" I nodded. "I'd like that." He told me he had no idea where we'd go, but we'd go 'somewhere'. We do not lack for churches in this area. Some we have visited, some we know by reputation, some we've merely seen as we passed by them. Churches are plentiful. We prayed that God would lead us to where we were meant to go.
When we got up Sunday morning we dressed, had breakfast and I promise you quite sincerely, all that time we had no idea where we were headed...Even when we got in the car, John looked at me and said "I don't know," and I knew he was as clueless as I about where we were going. We knew the town where we were headed and nothing more.
We found ourselves following by instinct, taking this turn, or that. And as we came near a church we'd last visited four years ago, we both said, "This is it. This is where we're supposed to be." We knew.
When we went in we sat down and a woman came over to us and started talking, telling us her history. How four years ago her husband had been terminated and then re-employed with the same company with the caveat that they move away from their home state to Georgia. They had one week to put their home on the market and it sold immediately. She said within two weeks they'd packed everything they owned and were on the road, with no home, no church, no family ties in this state, and not even a clear idea of where they were going to end up. All they knew was that he had a job in Macon. But they were expecting to find all these things when they arrived and they did. They found the town immediately, bought a house a week later, found the church where we were visiting and had felt at home ever since.
We enjoyed the worship music. And then the sermon came. The pastor began to speak of Mary, a young girl who found favor in the eyes of God...and then he announced his sermon title, "What to Expect When You're Expecting". I like to here this man preach. I thought we were going to hear a seasonal message and that was okay. He surprised me. His perspective was based on observations he'd made during his wife's pregnancy about what she experienced.
Discomfort and pain...I recall very well when we stepped away from our former church and worship team and began attending a Messianic congregation. I was afraid. I mean it. This was a huge change for us and we had no idea just what we were heading into. We also dealt with the hurt of being called away from our former church. It was a frightening time and it was hard to find our way in this new territory where we felt alien. Friendships were strained, as were some family relationships, when we tried to explain why we were attending a Messianic synagogue. We heard pastors speak who assured us anyone following the feasts were falling deep into sin to go 'back' to the Old Testament ways of the Jewish faith. Few people understood and we found we walked mostly alone on our journey. Yes, we'd experienced discomfort and pain.
Fatigue... I remember those days when I frequently wanted to just sleep and never stop. Things within were changing and growing at such a pace that my body was exhausted keeping up with it. There have been times over these past four years that John and I have looked at one another and said "I'm just so tired!" Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically we were T.I.R.E.D. There were times when it felt we simply could not continue, but just as in pregnancy, stopping half way through was not an option. We learned to take the Shabat rest seriously. (And let me just say what a great shock it was to hear this pastor tell his people out right that they were never meant to spend the Sabbath going to church morning and evening! He told them plainly, the day was meant for rest.)
Frustration...The pastor pointed out that frustration comes in as the body changes and there are things one can no longer do. There's the building tiredness, discomfort, pain. There's the inability to control things (like that very real need to be near a restroom at all times), sleep (too much activity going on just as you start to doze off), foods that you enjoy but can no longer eat. And the last thing mentioned really drove the point home that this sermon was meant for us: the need to wait, the very state of being expectant, often causes frustration because it's going to take a certain number of days, a certain amount of time to reach the point where a healthy baby can be delivered.. Heaven help us, we have certainly noted that we have been waiting for months for certain things, like that ministry of John's to open up once more, and for us to move out of that valley and a little nearer the mountain top.
Yes, we felt we were right where we were meant to be that Sunday morning, hearing a message that might well have been custom prepared just for us, though no one knew it.
We don't know where we're headed at present. I don't know that we'll stop going to synagogue altogether nor start going to church only. We're praying about it...we're expecting...