During the sermon on Sunday our pastor read First Thessalonians 2:17 from the NIV where the Apostle Paul felt “orphaned” because he was separated from his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. The word hit me so forcefully, that I texted a few of my friends. “That’s me.” I wrote. “I feel orphaned!” The exclamation was followed by a very sad face.
I had dressed for church that Sunday morning with excitement because Charlie and I planned to attend the service for the first time in weeks. In July, he underwent numerous procedures and emergency surgery to remove three feet of twisted colon from his lower intestine. Four weeks later he had open heart surgery to replace a faulty valve and to bypass three blocked arteries. Soon after his last hospitalization and two weeks in acute rehab, I spent a night in the hospital for a heart ablation to correct my atrial fibrillation. Since it had been six weeks after Charlie’s last surgery and I felt so much better, I thought surely we’d be able to return to church. Wrong.
As I searched for comfortable clothes that would hide the colostomy bag he was left with after the first surgery, he stumbled into the bedroom to dress for church. “I don’t feel like going. I’m too dizzy.” He was so pale, I thought he would faint.
Dizziness has plagued him for several months and I mistakenly thought the heart surgery would correct the problem. Though he often feels fine, the dizzy spells attack him at the most inconvenient times. Without a better explanation, the medical personnel have labeled it Postural Hypotension. Needless to say, he wasn’t going to church and I couldn’t leave him with such instability.
My spirits dragged as I removed my church clothes and went into the kitchen. Once again, we’d watch the service on line. There would be no fellowship with the saints and no after church breakfast with the BK Brunch Bunch, a collection of dear friends from our Thursday night small group.
The worship was wonderful as we watched from our comfortable recliners, but I continued to think how much better it would be if we were there in person–singing and praising God with our friends. The sermon series the last couple of weeks has been on connecting with other members of the family of God.
The points the pastor made weren’t new to us or to the special group of people that we consider family–the members of the Gainesville Life Group. This particular group has been meeting at the home of our friends, the Stinson’s, for more than eleven years. We’ve been attending the last ten. Though the group provides opportunity to fellowship with couples we’ve known for over fifty years, we are also blessed with the new friends we’ve met since joining this unique group. These dear people not only accept us as members of their “family,” but connect to our spirits in a way that seems supernatural. Could God have put us all together?
Love flows from the moment we walk into Barbara and Earl Stinson’s family room on Thursday evenings. Eyes light up with greeting and, over an abundance of snacks on the kitchen island, we catch up. How was your week away? Is your daughter feeling better? Tell me what’s going on with Robert? We know these people. Their concerns are ours–we weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice. When the bell rings to begin the session, we rush to finish a thought or story and laugh when Earl has to repeat the warning.
Since prayers are taken seriously, praise is our first order of business as reports of God’s intervention and answers are shared. The teaching video convicts and challenges us to grow stronger in our faith and our commitment to God and others. Questions are batted back and forth, working the truths into our own situations. Occasionally special offerings are received–to assist a needy missionary, to help someone in our group who is struggling financially, to dig a few wells in Africa or to collect warm clothing and socks for the homeless. Generosity and love are freely shared. We close by praying for the needs God brings to our minds.
Every Thursday evening when I’m forced to stay home, I drift farther into this feeling of isolation. Going out at night gets harder and I think it’s just easier to stay put. But I know me–I can’t survive without my brothers and sisters in Christ. I need the challenge; I need the love; I need their support and encouragement and I need to study and pray with them. They are my family for eternity and, like the Apostle Paul, I feel orphaned without them.