Boundaries and clemency

Boundaries and clemency
Today was supposed to be the first day. Finally. After three months of stalling.

On Sundays, I go to church. And at the end of our service, anyone can come up for prayer. My pastor has always encouraged me to pray for others during these times, but I’ve always balked. Sundays, I reasoned, are my day off. As a vocational minister, I’d like a day when I’m not doing ministry. I just want to come. To relax and enjoy. To receive and not give. To rest from my labors.

Plus, prayer drains me. Some people are just plain lucky: they love praying. For these folks, prayer is heart-beating inspirational stuff. They get recharged from it. For me, praying is about as inspirational as lint. No, not all of the time. Sometimes, I get a glimpse of something transcendent. But most of the time, I’d rather answer emails — and for me, that’s no small statement. But, like medicine, I know it’s good for me. So I do pray.

But Sundays are a completely different matter. I need boundaries, don’t I? Nevertheless, while I was sitting at the end of a Sunday service three months ago, I felt like I should go up to the front and pray for others. And I promptly squashed that idea, like a mosquito. No way. But a question gets lodged into my head, “Who in the Bible limits the healing of others to certain days?” Ouch. I knew the answer. Pharisees. Religious leaders in the Bible who lived by rules and boundaries better than anyone. And thus by implication, I was one of them.

I was becoming a professional. Amateurs love what they do, like Sudoku or surfing. It’s the stuff you do on your day off. Professionals do it as a job. And by telling God that something was off limits, I was the professional. Sure, some people need to have stronger boundaries. They really do. But for me, my boundaries were up too high. And it’s no wonder that Sunday services were leaving me feeling a bit numb.

So after three months of stalling, today was supposed to be the first day. (I know, I wasn’t too quick to be obedient.) I would submit, and pray for others. But I was offered clemency: there was no prayer ministry today. We broke up into small groups instead. So I escaped for yet another week. But it’s funny: even though I didn’t actually go up and pray, the willingness put me in another place altogether.

I wasn’t just a customer at a church service today, but a participant. Not only was my body present, but so was my heart and spirit. Worship felt fresh and new. The sermon felt like ice-cold Coke on a hot, humid day. Dying to myself brought new, resurrection life. Ultimately, a willingness to obey knocked me out of the driver’s seat, and I found that I enjoyed the ride that much better.

So if you go to our church, I’ll see you next week. Let me know if I can pray for you.