A week ago we gathered, two musicians and five singers, from each of our churches worship teams; to learn new worship songs.
We worked hard; laughing, listening to the music, listening to each other, helping one another get it right. None of us are professional singers and we have varying degrees of technical knowledge and ability, but all of us love to sing and feel a calling to lead worship. As our voices warmed up and began to blend more smoothly, our pleasure in singing grew and I felt re-energized.
I had been tired when I arrived; it having been my first day back in the office after New Years. Not every one was back yet, so I had slogged away uninterrupted in the office, working hard.
An hour and a half later we were done but my mind was already on the things I still had to do when I got home. By then my eyes as if they were about to fall out of my head. A day staring at a computer screen had taken its toll.
We turned off lights, set the alarm and headed out into the dark, windy night. I hugged Susan and Frances goodbye and as I did, Frances said, smiling, and eyes bright, "We're going for a coffee, do you want to come?"
"No," I said, as if she had asked me to take a bath in a vat of acid instead of out for coffee, "I've got to get home; I've got a blog to write."
And off into the night went my social butterfly friends as I got into my car to go home.
I worried about my blunt response, hoping I hadn't hurt Frances feelings. I hadn't meant to be so lacking in finesse.
After the short week, Saturday dawned. From the start of the day I felt as if every time I opened my mouth I was not a blessing. I saw the hurt in Paul's eyes at something I said carelessly. Although the tension was soothed by a quick apology and loving hug, I was sorry it had been necessary and was only another reminder of my need to think before I speak.
On Sunday our team met early to practice again; it was our turn to lead.
It was a communion service; the first of a new year. We were there, we broken ones, to share the emblems of Christ's body, broken for us.
The songs went well. We forgot ourselves and felt God using us as the congregation entered into worship in a way that told us they were connecting with God. At the altar service afterwards, there were one or two people who lingered long, heads bowed. As long as they were praying, we stayed, softly singing and praying with them in our hearts.
When finally the service was over, I turned to Frances and said, "I'm so sorry for being so blunt on Wednesday."
She laughed. It was obvious that she wasn't upset. "I wouldn't worry over something like that," she said, and I reminded her of her trait of sensitivity and that once upon a time that would have hurt her. She thought for a moment and said, "But now I know you."
I thought about the grace that is summed up in those words and how I lean into it in my closest relationships. Another friend, in a different context recently, talked of our friendship "being able to bear" the areas where we divide.
Being our true selves involves taking off the corset of courtesy that holds in our beastie side. It also involves risking a lot to be truly known when some of what we are is not pretty. But oh, there is such joy, grace and comfort in being known and loved anyway.
Lord, tonight I celebrate friendship, especially spiritual friendships. I thank you for the depth of love that is possible between friends and the grace that flows out of it.
Proverbs 27:17 (The Message)
The Message (MSG) by Eugene H. Peterson
17 You use steel to sharpen steel,
and one friend sharpens another.