Things were quiet. Too quiet.
I sat in a circle of 10 people who had no idea what to say. The uneasy silence came during a meeting of our small group that had been together for several months. Usually we were a talkative bunch. I had to struggle to keep people on topic because we enjoyed each other’s company so much. Right now… not so much.
We had just been reflecting on Biblical passages about servanthood. The study seemed obvious enough, nothing too revolutionary, just familiar passages about serving the least of these among us.
But now Kathy, a member of the group, was taking things too far. She was taking the lesson personally.
“You know, I think I’ve been disobedient to God.” She said.
That got our attention. Kathy was the most gracious, meek, and kind person in the group by far. None of us had pictured her as a hardened sinner. Especially at our weekly potluck dinneres with her green been casserole in hand.
“I’m not sure I’ve been doing what the Bible says.” She was staring at a spot in the wall over our heads, careful not to make eye contact. “I used to really love to serve other people, but in the last few years, well, I guess ever since the kids were little, it seems like all of my time and attention has gone to my own family. I haven’t really taken time to look around and see how other people are struggling, what their needs are, and how I can help. And now that the kids are grown I haven’t changed that pattern at all.” She got a little quieter. “I think Jesus is sad. I think he wishes I would look outside myself and stop being so selfish.”
The room was dead quiet. People were clearly uneasy, shifting around in their seats and glancing at me as the leader of the group, wondering what I would do to fix this awkward moment.
We were uncomfortable with Kathy being uncomfortable. Finally, someone who couldn’t take it anymore and broke the ice.
“But Kathy, you do so many wonderful things for your own family.”
Another person jumped in:
“I agree! You’re such a loving person, I’m sure Jesus understands that your attention is on the needs in your own family. Just look at what great kids you’ve raised!”
The group was nodding and smiling, reassuring Kathy that she wasn’t a monster, just a stay-at-home mom turned empty-nester with plenty of responsibilities and grandchildren on her plate. Surely she measured higher than we did on the obedience scale – and there was clearly nothing wrong with the rest of us, right?
Surely Jesus didn’t mean she had to look outside of her own family to serve? Surely he wouldn’t want what she was reading in the Bible to make her uncomfortable? If it did, surely it was our job to make her comfortable again, right?
Small group FAIL.
What had been a moment of holy discomfort, of true conviction, got turned into an “I’m OK, you’re OK” session in just a few seconds. God had been speaking to Kathy through those Scriptures, gently convicting her. He was using His Word to show her an area of her life that he wanted her to change. Once this tiny little flame of conviction got started, she shyly trusted her group, and they poured a big bucket of ice water on it to save her from the burn. I think that little flame of conviction was about to develop (and I hope it still did) into a calling, a burden, a desire to reach out to someone and serve them in Jesus’ name.
But we silenced it. All in the name of being comfortable.
Why are Christians so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable? Why do we need to reassure each other all the time that we’re just fine the way we are?
When God convicts us, it doesn’t mean He’s squashing our self esteem. There’s a huge difference between conviction and condemnation. One is a voice from the Spirit. One is a voice from the serpent. One voice prods us gently towards the ways God wants to help us change. The other tells us how worthless we are and that we are incapable of change.
Conviction is the first step of transformation into something better, something more like Jesus.
Transformation often requires that we become so uncomfortable with where we are that we want to move.
But we have to be OK with being uncomfortable first.
Have you ever been in a conversation where an uncomfortable moment leads to a good thing?