With the observance of Labor Day, back to school activities and the brisk morning weather, our attention is being drawn towards the fall season. The sounds of waves breaking on the shoreline and friend's chatting around a barbecue have become faint echoes of summer. The fall season, for me, means gathering around a bonfire, hoppy fall beers and the start of basketball season! Some of my warmest memories are from going to see the (now) Brooklyn Nets play at the Prudential Center in Newark. There was something about being in the arena which made going to those games distinctively memorable. It wasn't until a later time, during a sermon on Philippians, that I gained clarity of my experience at those games.
During this particular sermon on Philippians, the pastor shared his experience of being in a stadium at a football game. He recounted that thousands were gathered, with one purpose, one hope, and the solidarity of the experience made it like no other. Similarly, I came to realize that the unity amongst the spectators in the basketball arena was a result of our focus on the main event, the basketball game. Throughout the game, we got to chat, cheer or boo with those around us. The barriers of "I don't know them like that", "what will people say or think", "what if I'm wrong" "will this be offensive", "how would the Lord approach this" etc. didn't even come to the forefront of our minds because the one thing all of us were drawn to was something outside of ourselves-the game.
One of my favorite aspects of being part of the Jacob's Well community is the freedom to not only be myself, specifically the combination of Indian + woman + Hindu-by-birth among other things, but also to be honored in that identity. I know that this community means the same for others as well. I share these things with you because I'd like us to preserve that freedom and honor.
I think it's safe to say we get the big picture gospel story and mission. Some of us have formed deep friendships and others have begun scratching the surface. Wherever we are in our journey, we should be encouraged to strive for the same depth of love with each other as we have in our relationship with God. God's word doesn't say to like or be tolerant of each other, but rather it says in 1 Peter 4:8 "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." However, I know for me, this is easier said than done. I think part of that stems from fear. Fear because it's risky, fear about not “getting it right,” but also the natural fear of unknown. One may wonder "What would happen to me and to them if I loved deeply?" I know from my own experience, this community has not let me run away when things got difficult. I have been encouraged by, challenged by, and corrected by members of this community and while it was challenging in the moment, it was deeply satisfying in the end.
I have also come to learn that these acts of love were not carried out to judge me but rather in accordance to Paul's words from Philippians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." In those moments, no one focused on any part of the combination of "Indian + woman + Hindu-by-birth among other things" but rather their attention was drawn solely to Jesus and walking in obedience with him by being honest and open with me.
During this past year, as a result of this community’s loving me in the way they have, I was was able to tap into the same source of love while fostering relationships within my discipleship group, specifically with Lucy Foust. I first met Lucy at church on the day we were assigned to discipleship groups. We discovered that we lived a five minute walk from each other. One evening, about two weeks later, I had just woken up from a nap, was looking at my phone and saw an incoming call from Lucy. In the few seconds that it took to accept the call, two thoughts were already registering in my mind: 1. For her to call me, this must be important and 2. She lives five minutes away so there’s a high probability that she will want to talk in person, likely at my house. There was no doubt I was going to answer the call but I felt so unprepared for what would unfold. I answered the call, finding solace in remembering all that the Lord had done for me, especially through a close friendship with Tim and Anne Adhikari. They have opened their arms, their hearts, their lives and their home to me especially when I needed hugs, love, fellowship and family. After a minute of small talk, Lucy asked if she could come over. My answer was yes. Tapping into love from the Lord and drawing support from my friendship with the Adhikaris, I got out of bed, threw on my glasses and made my way to the living room. I didn’t know what to expect nor did I feel adequately prepared as to what I could offer her. Nonetheless, in a few short minutes, there was the doorbell. I took a deep breath before opening the door, still in pajamas. We spent the next half hour or so talking on my sofa, nothing deep or spiritual, just about what was going on in her life. We have since grown closer and continue to open our homes and lives to each other. I will never know the fullness of what Lucy was experiencing that evening and (after reading this) she will know a little bit more about my experience of that evening. But thanks be to God for giving us that evening.
All this to say when our focus is drawn to someone greater than ourselves, namely Jesus, it alleviates the fears and the pressures of the how-to's regarding other parts of our identity. When we are able to humble ourselves, in this way, we can exercise true, unconditional love and then are free to enjoy and honor other parts of each other's' identities. And yes, well-intended pride can naturally get in the way, however, Jesus calls us to love this way, in spite of pride, because he has already done the same, except he took the greatest risk and bore it all the way to His death on a cross. For us, that risk has been dealt with; we get to walk freely, live eternally, the risk is minimal, but the reward is the greatest.
Lastly, why? Why should we preserve the sanctity of Jesus? One reason is because when all is said and done, on that last day, we will be rejoicing fully and together, our attention will be drawn away from the things we did and did not do, the people we hung out with and those we failed to reach out to, the achievements and setbacks, the degrees, jobs, etc. But on that day "... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"(Philippians 2:10-11). Let's be willing to love one another deeply, opening our doors to each other, as we continue to gather towards that one final gathering, ushered in by the echoes of Paul "being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind. (Philippians 2:2)." Let’s go, Team!