I had a meeting today that I have been thinking about for the past several months. It was a Classis meeting, a semi-annual gathering of Reformed Church in America pastors and elders from congregations in my geographical area. Perhaps I’m a little strange in that I really enjoy these kinds of meetings for the most part. Though the meetings are often lengthy, I look forward to the opportunity to see people I haven’t seen in six months, to hearing updates on various missions and ministries in my area, and to worshiping as a body of church leaders who are all seeking to live faithfully into the calling of God in our lives. Although I look forward to these meetings whenever they happen, I was anticipating this meeting to be fraught with controversy regarding one particular item on the agenda. I had been thinking about how the discussion might go for months, and I had spent the past couple of weeks studying Scripture, jotting notes, reading articles, praying to God for guidance, and stress-eating (not always in that order) as I wondered what might happen during the meeting, and what role I might be called to play in it.
On Sunday morning, I was talking with my elder about the upcoming meeting. I walked him through the items we would be voting on, and I tried to present reasons on all sides of the issues. I also assured him that I wanted him to vote in whatever way was right for him, and that I hoped he would not be swayed by how I would vote. Just as I got ready to leave the church that morning, I received an unexpected affirmation that was so kind, so grace-filled, so perfectly what I needed to hear, that I almost felt as though I was floating along my walk home.
By Monday evening, I had given up my anxiety. I was prepared. I had been in prayer. I had a conviction, and I believed I could share that conviction in both a compelling and a loving manner. It was up to God’s movement to do the rest. And then on Tuesday morning, the vote took place. 41 people voted. 20 voted yes, and 21 voted no. I had hoped for the “yes” votes to take the majority, and when they didn’t, I was disappointed.
Psalm 37:3-4 says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
When you take delight in the Lord, the Lord will give you the desires of your heart. But what does that mean when you don’t “win?” What does it mean to receive the desires of your heart, the things you long after, the things you hope for, when it seems you have been defeated?
During the discussion before the vote, I heard affirmations and unexpected blessings from very unexpected places. I saw movement and progress, hope and a future promise. I had people express their care and love for me when the proposal was defeated. My husband not only made dinner, but also dessert for our family. And then it dawned on me.
The desire of my heart is not to win.
Winning isn’t what I’m after. I’m not Charlie Sheen looking for an opportunity to declare to the world that I’m “winning.” At the same meeting, we had an opportunity to learn about peacemaking and conflict resolution. During that workshop, the presenter reminded us that we are not a peacemaking people when our ultimate goal is to win. The desire of my heart isn’t winning.
The desire of my heart is to see the reign of God be made manifest in my life, in my church, in my denomination, and around the world. The desire of my heart is for God to make use of my gifts for the upbuilding of the church. The desire of my heart is for the church to grow in its ability to love. I want to love, and be loved. I want to know, and be known. And I want the church that proclaims the mighty and steadfast love of God to be a place that knows and loves others.
Though the vote did not go as I had hoped today, I saw God’s movement in the midst of a meeting that could have so easily reflected the brokenness of our sinful world. I heard affirmation from places where there had once been none. I had conversations with people I had never really talked to before. And we worshiped our great God together.
Even though I did not “win,” I still received the desires of my heart.