- On Sunday, October 6, the elders led a combined worship service that included an announcement of changes in the involvement of women in worship. (See this website for the elders’ written transcript here or in audio form here).
An eagle passed over Rangeline Road in Carmel on Sunday after church. My heart swelled to see it soaring overhead in regal majesty. Mere coincidence some might say, but I don’t think so. It encourages me to think that God sent that eagle that way that day to signify to me His approval of what had transpired at church in the previous hour.
A sort of culmination had been achieved in which a congregation of believers grew to a new level of maturity through a process that relied on the Spirit of God to reveal what should be done. It was a process new to many in this congregation. It involved prolonged discussion, and prayer for wisdom and understanding to face a challenge with the potential to divide and destroy the fellowship of God’s children. For me, it involved relinquishing control to God in a matter of longstanding tradition.
It was hard for those of us who lack a routine discipline of spiritual discernment, who have never practiced spiritual discernment before. I was taught that the active Spirit was a thing of the past based on a literalist view of a few verses in 1 Corinthians 13. I don’t believe anyone who taught me that had ill intent toward the Spirit, but I do believe they were mistaken because I have experienced the active working of the Spirit dwelling in me, and I have witnessed His work in many of my brethren as well, including some who have not quite come to terms with this reality yet.
Sometimes I think back on things I did or said before I knew better, and I cringe. I’m sorry if I offended you or somehow interfered with an impulse of the Spirit in your life. Who knows the damage I’ve done to someone who was honestly sensing the leading of the Spirit? Who knows the delays I’ve caused by obstruction? The Apostle Paul felt something like this himself, knowing the life he lived before his epiphany on the Damascus Road.
I know there are some who are still resisting the Spirit and who doubt that he works actively in us today, but I trust that they will be moved by His love nonetheless, and I will do all I can to encourage my brothers and sisters to yield to the Spirit.
It was of particular value for me during this period of communal discernment to lay out my opinions in this matter and consider them honestly in light of scripture, not to prove myself right but to see whether I was missing something worthwhile there. It was very helpful for me to hear what some of you were thinking as well. When the elders asked us to seek the guidance of the Spirit in this matter, I overcame my resistance and prayed to God for an open heart. I studied as hard as I ever have. I talked with wise men and women and sometimes argued.
There is an element of my resistance that was of value, however. I believe in the old adage; “Sin in haste, repent at leisure." The embedded truth here has to do with imprudent hurry. I tend to be impatient. When I think I know the right thing to do, I don’t want to wait and make sure. It’s a matter of spiritual pride, I know. Why should I think that I know better than everyone else, or anyone else?
Some of my friends were like me in this regard. As the discernment process went on, we began to wonder if it would ever be possible to achieve a resolution. Let us be thankful that the elders were not pressed to make a decision before they were in accord. There was no need to change anything and it did not hurt to wait until they were sure.