Yesterday in church, I sat quietly in my seat listening to the worship team play before the service began. Quite suddenly, someone started clapping, loudly. I looked to my right and there sat a woman, eagerly and happily, clapping. Just as suddenly as she started, she stopped, and said, “Sorry, sorry.” I looked away, not wanting to make her feel awkward, as I knew others were probably looking as well.
She continued with her disruptions throughout the service, even to the point of raising her hand during the visiting pastor’s sermon. He calmly and sweetly told her, “No, not now please.” But her outbursts continued, whether clapping, raising her hand, or yelling out responses to statements from the pulpit.
In the past I have responded to similar situations, and I thought perhaps I would just go sit with her as a soothing presence. But my husband and I recently stepped down from leadership, and I thought it might be better for an elder’s wife to intercede. Before I thought about it much longer, a lovely, motherly friend did what I had been contemplating–went and sat with her. When this simple solution failed, she guided the woman gently out of the sanctuary.
When neither returned after about 20 minutes, I thought perhaps my friend might need some assistance, so I slipped out of the service and found the two outside. My friend smiled gratefully and mouthed, “Thank you.” We talked with Samantha (I’ve changed her name) and drew her out a bit. We prayed with her about some things she mentioned that were troubling her. Then we asked had she ever come to God and sought forgiveness for her sins? Had she ever decided to follow Jesus? Her answers were unclear. In fact, much of what she expressed was unclear, even garbled. She clearly needed more help than we could give her. We spoke later with one of our pastors about her needs and how as a body we might meet them.
I’m sharing this story because not too many years ago I might have been more irritated with Samantha’s outbursts than concerned about her well-being and state of mind. I might have acted hastily and rather than sit with her, speaking soothingly, I might have simply told her she had to come with me out to the foyer, where I might have spoken some harsh words.
But the Father fashioned Samantha in her mother’s womb, giving her characteristics and qualities that reflect him, as he did with me and with every other human being. She is special and unique, deserving respect and consideration. Yesterday we had an opportunity to demonstrate love to Samantha; we did not treat her harshly or rudely. An usher did not bustle her out of the room and ask her to leave. As a body, we demonstrated patience, hoping that perhaps she would gain some control of herself, and when she did not, we gave her the opportunity to express how she was feeling and what she needed.
It can be difficult to know how to act in these kinds of situations. Get involved? Stay out of it? Ignore it? Avoid it? My hope is for a deeper kind of love that covers other’s weaknesses (1 Peter 4:8) and a spirit that is in tune with God’s spirit, always listening for his direction and guidance: who to speak with, how to love, and when to act. Sometimes easier said than done.
How did you handle it?Bye for now,