“They’ll be here in half an hour. You take Emily to the sitter’s and I’ll clean up dinner. We have just enough time.” Ellen made a mental list of her preparations for their first meeting as Life Group leaders. House cleaned – check. Music selected – check. Lesson prepared – check -- and divided into just enough time for each section. No more of this getting off on tangents and going overtime. It’s not that Bob and Gina weren’t great small group leaders, but there were some things that needed to improve.
“Mommy, I don’t feel ......” Little Emily’s dinner immerged all over the freshly mopped floor. So much for her perfectly cleaned house.
“I’ll clean this up, you see to her.” Don’s reassuring voice took control.
Why isn’t tonight going as planned? I had this vision that things were going to be perfect with Don and I as Life Group leaders. Where did I go wrong? Ellen tried to focus on her daughter’s needs, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Ellen finally got Emily settled into bed in clean pajamas just as the doorbell rang. It was time.
Ellen walked into the living area of her house and was mortified to see the dinner dishes and food still on the table; and worse – Sandy was clearing the table. “Oh, Sandy, you really don’t have to do this. I’m so sorry to have left this mess.”
“I don’t mind. You had much more important things to worry about. Have you heard from Kate? Do you know how she’s doing with the relationship issue?”
“No, I haven’t.” Ellen had forgotten all about praying for Kate, or any of the other members of her group. As a group member, that was one of her responsibilities. As a group leader, it was mandatory. So far she was not doing so well as a group leader.
After Don started the group with prayer, and Ellen pushed the button on the remote control to play the preprogrammed songs on the CD and fished in her pile for the lyrics. No lyrics. One more check in the “worst group leader ever” column. The music began and Ellen realized that she had programmed the wrong songs. She fretted about it, but she didn’t say anything. What would they think if they knew how much she had totally messed up?
When the lesson talked about the importance of fellowship, Heidi joined in. “That is what I love about this group. I can be real here. I can put my hurts and pains and imperfections on the table and you guys love me more because of it. If I did that at work or with most of my other friends, I’d have a very lonely life.”
“I know what you mean, Heidi. I feel that way even with my family. This group is more my family than my parents and siblings because you accept me in spite of my shortcomings. I don’t have that elsewhere.” Kate’s mourning her family relations was obvious in her teary voice.
“Ellen, you are okay? I sense something going on with you.”
Emily’s cry broke the silence that followed Sandy’s question. Don jumped up and offered to take care of Emily. “Satan’s not going to use her to let you avoid the question,” he half joked as he left the room.
Ellen looked at her friends. In the two years she’d been part of this group, she had never really shared deeper than superficial prayer requests, yet they all shared their hearts with her. They saw her as the strong one, or did they? Perhaps they knew a strength in being able to share that she did not have.
I am that strength.
The floodgates of Ellen’s emotions burst open as she confessed to her friends and her God the pride that she had been harvesting all week. She had prepared the lesson without once praying for God’s guidance. She had envied the relationships within the group and only now realized why she didn’t feel as connected as the rest. She had never taken off her mask of perfection and allowed herself to be real with her group or with God. For the first time, Ellen was thankful that the group went off on a tangent and focused on the need of one of the members. Because tonight, she was that member and it changed her relationship with God and with each member of her group.
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