Friday, March 23, 2012

A Lover's Quarrel

So as many of you know, since coming to Russia my relationship with God has completely changed. He's much more real to me now than in my previous 22 years of God experiences. Which is a good thing. Now, I don't know where you stand or how your relationship with Him is, but I increasingly see my relationship with God as that of a lover.

Now maybe that sounds a little weird. I know it feels a little weird to admit it. Maybe it's because of all of the connotations that go along with the word "lover" that makes it feel a little odd to define it in this sense. But that's how I see it. I think part of the reason I have this view of our relationship is that God fills a hole and a longing that I was previously trying to fill with the company of boys. So it makes sense.

Also, since God is infinite and omnipotent and so much higher and wiser than I, defining him like this is a way for my puny human self to put Him into a sort of concept that I can understand. So weird as it may sound, this relationship with God is kind of like dating someone. And this brings us to our parable.

Naturally when you date someone, you have ups and downs, times when you feel closer and times when you feel farther apart. Russia, as you may also have gathered, has been very much full of spiritual ups and downs for me.

Several weeks ago, I sort of got into a fight with God.

There were some things that I'd witnessed that didn't make sense to me. I was very upset about them and I didn't understand how God, in this infinite wisdom he supposedly possessed, could allow such things. The injustice of it filled me with anger and broke my heart. So, I told God off.

I then proceed to stomp off in fury and move on with life.  The days pass and I go through the motions like everything is fine. But deep down it's really not. A few days later, there's this nudge on my heart. As if my cell is ringing and the caller ID says "God." Good, maybe he's calling to apologize. But when I check the voicemail later (Because what girl is going to give her guy the time of day when she's angry at him?) he says "Hey, you were acting irrationally but it's okay. Why don't we go get dinner and spend some time together?" Well, he has some nerve! I think, and ignore it.

Thus it begins. Me ignoring him and every few days getting this little nudge being like "Hey, I'm still here and still waiting for you." But I'm stubborn and I continue on as I am.

And then suddenly, a few weeks have gone by and I realize that I feel dead inside. I've started to forget what it felt like to be loved that way. Things in my life start to fall apart. I try to handle everything by myself and realize that it was nice to have someone to share the load with. But all the same, it's become a matter of pride. And it gets to the point where, even though I know he was right, that I acted irrationally and that I should go back and apologize, I'm kind of afraid to call him back. So much time has passed at this point and what must he think of me?

So it's this place of total stagnation and then along comes a good friend of mine. You know, one of those friends who totally gets you and with whom you can discuss anything. So we have a figurative cup of coffee ('cause we're an ocean apart) and a chat. She shares her problems and I share mine and we realize we've been going through the same kind of thing. As we talk it through, I come to realize that I've been ridiculous. I shouldn't be afraid to call him back because this same infinite wisdom that God possesses is what makes him understanding. His ways aren't mine. He knows that. He knows I make stupid mistakes and suddenly, I realize it doesn't matter how much time has passed because He'll still take me back. I explain this to my friend and she totally gets it. I explain that it's not enough to call. I have to see him and I have to see him now. So I sprint out of the coffee shop, hop in the car and drive.

I'm crying by the time I get out of the car. Before I can knock or ring the bell, He opens the door and wraps me in a huge hug. I just cling to him, sobbing. "I'm so glad you've come home!" he whispers into my hair. The love in his voice makes me cry harder, but it's a good cry because suddenly everything's okay again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Love Feast

We did something a little different for church yesterday. I was quite a fan.
March 8th, Russia celebrated International Women's Day. Because of this day, Thursday and Friday were days off and Sunday became a working day. As a result, instead of our usual service at noon, the time was changed to 6:30pm.

The men prepared and organized a dinner. Tables were set up in the Zal and when it was time to start worship, we took seats at these tables with scrumptious food in front of us.

Assembling for the Love Feast

Brother Konstantin Zhigulin led us in a prayer and a song, then informed us it was time to eat. There was a rice/vegetable/chicken dish, juice and bread. We ate and talked.

After eating, we were led in a few more songs and then had communion and offering. Finally, Brother Oleg Yakimenko gave us the lesson, preaching about women and their role and importance.

I was a huge fan of the Love Feast, and not just because I like it when congregations mix things up once in a while. It wasn't just like a potluck, or a meal eaten together, it was more formal than that because the meal was part of the worship. Yet it wasn't so formal that it felt stiff like a ritual. It felt natural, right and good.

And there's something about sitting across from each other at tables for worship that makes you focus on your brothers and sisters, rather than just what's going on up front in a typical forward facing manner. And there's something more significant when you're passing communion trays back and forth across the table. It's more like family.

That's the way it's supposed to be.