When I arrived at the River back in 2013, God had a plan when I entered my small group —my wife’s small group— assigned based on marriage, not by choice. This belief kept me “one foot out” of the group, finding it very easy to skip the rhythm of our bi-weekly men’s meeting.
I felt like whatever small group I entered was at a disadvantage , or at least that’s what I thought, based on my experiences at my previous church. There, the Miesle family welcomed me immediately when I arrived . They adopted the boys and me as their own. It didn’t hurt that from the moment our children met, they were off and running around the church. As any parent knows, engaged sets of kids are like built in childcare with the occasional bump, bruise or hurt feeling needing a parent’s attention.
We cried, worshipped, celebrated (including holidays), shared meals, prayed and served together. We simply were living life together. I recall Heather, Don, and their children Isaiah and Eliah taking time out of their busy schedule to attend my youngest son’s pre-school graduation. I will never forget that day, as it was also a day that I saw pure disappointment on my five-year-old son’s face when he found out that his birth mother was not going to attend. I was sad, I was angry, but my family was there in support. This family was a blessing from God, not something I was born into.
The Miesles were my family, but as I look back, we were also a small group.
My need for community became obvious to me when I was trying to build a shed in my backyard. I was stuck, the frames of the shed walls were complete, siding attached and now ready to be assembled to the floor. I tried to lift the walls with my two boys, but we were not strong enough. I needed help! I would have called on Heather and Don in a heartbeat, but I was hesitant to ask my small group at the River to assist.
Copyright: 1markim / 123RF Stock Photo
A wise friend will ask why I was hesitant, which I began to reflect on. I realized I never allowed myself to grieve the loss of the Miesles.
Finally, one Sunday after church I relented, asking a couple of guys from small group to assist, not expecting them to assist that same afternoon (although that was really what I was hoping for). They agreed, and their families even came over in support. The kids ran around in the sprinklers while the dads went to work. That afternoon, I felt supported at a level that went beyond the manual labor. I needed help and my small group was there to assist. We didn’t get into a deep theological conversation that afternoon, but I felt more connected to each person.
Perhaps I need to “let go” of the past a bit, projecting the expectations that come along with it and allow God to speak more into the present.
Journal entry from a recent morning devotional (months after I first started writing this entry on my small group) … The death of Lazarus called for Jesus to go back to Judea, the place where the people recently tried to stone him. His disciples were concerned. John 11:9-10; Jesus answered, “Are there not 12 hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” “The world’s light” is what surfaced for me this morning, wanting to “Drop the L” (a message that I preached on many years ago) and read, “The word’s light.” The light of the world, Jesus, is the light of the word. The “L” that I spoke to years back was laziness, realizing that may in fact be more of a by-product of our current narrative. The word lament was brought to me this morning. Lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, to mourn. God wants me to jump into the Book of Lamentations (and perhaps you), but I will set that aside for this morning. I believe that we must passionately mourn the deepest, darkest roots of our soul, that which defines our current narrative. Our deepest hurts and pains, lifting them up passionately to God. If your soul is free of these kinds of roots, then celebrate and give thanks to your heavenly father, but I would also ask you to look deeper. It requires passion as the roots run deep and they will “fight”, not wanting to let go. It requires perseverance and practice as the roots run deep and they can be nasty, easier for us to leave them alone. It requires patience as God will answer in his time, not ours. Lament that which his negative that has taken root in your soul. Begin to walk in the light of this world, the light of the word. What will your personal Book of Lamentations look like?
I never passionately mourned the loss of the Miesle family from our day-to-day life, carrying that baggage into my new small group.
Heavenly father, thank you for this day! I pray for the gift of prayer, so that I may begin to develop a prayer of lamentation. A prayer of thanksgiving for all that you continually bless me with, but also a prayer that will speak into those aspects of my life most in need of your healing. A healing that comes with hope, grace, love, support and forgiveness. Grant me the space to listen, strength to speak what pains me, clarity to hear your voice and wisdom to “let go” in healthy ways. Allow me to be a vehicle by which lamentation is viewed as another gift in the process of healing.
Bill Wagner loves being a husband and father. He is blessed to walk side-by-side with his wife, Kristy, raising their three children, Samuel, Graeson, and Emily. Bill was born, raised and educated in upstate New York, and relocated to the Bay Area in 2008. He is a headhunter by day, working from home and building relationships with corporate tax & finance professionals here in Silicon Valley. He took a leave of absence in 2012-13 to deepen his walk in ministry; he is now focused on bringing his faith outside the walls of the church and into his work.