Slipping into a long black skirt and dressy white blouse prior to attending yet another fancy reception at one of Bonn’s upscale venues, I tried to put on courage as well as clothing. People would hold glasses of wine as they mingled, small talk carried along by the breeze of appropriateness. Diplomats attended to make contacts that might one day prove helpful to their embassies and ultimately their countries. We attended, however, to honor acquaintances and meet people in order to develop relationships that would ultimately lead not to the advancement of our personal desires, but to become friends. Hopefully they would come to see Jesus in us, and ultimately understand the Christ who offers healing that governments cannot.
During our early years in Bonn, these events were exciting and I loved meeting new people from various cultures, several becoming precious friends. But after a year-long bout with an elusive illness that often left me drained from even the most casual conversation, those two hours of mingling became a horrendous challenge. I preferred to be home, curled up with a book. And one basic emotion screamed within: “I DON’T BELONG HERE!”
When I read the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: ”What is your only comfort in life and in death?” and then saw the startling answer: “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ,” the truckload of gold—liquid gold!—mentioned in last week’s blog, poured over me.
I BELONG! I don’t have to pretend to be part of a group. No more wondering if I speak, act, live like others in order to be accepted. Money, education, status, occupation are not prerequisites for this belonging. At a much deeper level, I need never wonder if God is waiting for me to get cleaned up enough to meet his standards. Nothing I do can make God love me more. Or less. Craig Barnes writes, It was never up to us to work hard enough to find a life we would want to keep. It was never up to us to hold loved ones close enough to ensure that we would never lose them or be left alone… In God’s hands, nothing, and no one, is ever lost. Our only comfort.*
Much of the rest of the catechism will no doubt baffle me. I anticipate arguing with many of its statements. But for now I will rest in belonging “body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” One of my favorite hymns—made such through streaming tears—echoes my response: It is well, it is well, with my soul.**
*Body and Soul, Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism, Dr. M. Craig Barnes
**It Is Well by Horacio Spafford, 1873