Every Monday morning at 8:30, we have a time for prayer in the campus chapel. Most Mondays, the same group of folks show up. We share about our weekends and our busy schedules of kids’ sports, family engagements, and church functions. But most importantly, we share time and space together. The tall, peaked ceilings and open-air feel of Sloop Chapel seem to lift any reservations or fears we have when we share that space together. It’s comfortable, familiar, inviting.
A quiet chapel.
Occasionally, on Monday mornings at 8:30, things happen. As I like to say, the wheels come off the bus. Meetings are scheduled, reports are due, people are sick, and our normal prayer time does not happen. On those Monday mornings, the chapel is still comfortable, familiar, and inviting. The ceilings are still tall and open, but the chapel is quiet. On those particular Mondays, when the time has passed for people to pray and the chapel is quiet, I sit and read and pray.
Sometimes, I pick up reading where I left off the day or week or month before. Other times, I just turn to a page in the Bible and start. No matter the place, I just start reading. Rarely do I turn to a page in the New Testament. Most often, my random reading begins in the Old Testament. I am sure it’s simply because of the number of pages in the Old Testament, not God’s way of saying, “Jim, you need to spend a little time in the old stuff.” Maybe, maybe not.
One Monday, alone and quiet in the chapel, I grabbed a pew Bible and let it fall open in my lap. I fully expected it to fall open to the Psalms or Isaiah. They are big books, sort of in the middle. On the random books of the Bible roulette, they are solid bets. On that particular Monday something was different. I’m not sure if it was humid and the pages stuck together or if there was some other factor that played into the Bible falling open to Leviticus. But, that’s where it fell open in my lap, smack dab on the first page of the book where the best laid plans of reading the Old Testament go to die.
Reading through Leviticus is painful. Unlike the comfortable, familiar, and inviting feel of Sloop Chapel, Leviticus is foreign. It makes us uncomfortable. So, we either get frustrated and stop reading or we skip over it. We move onto something we know and understand, something taught in Sunday School. On that particular Monday, I fought the urge to do the same thing.
Instead, I did the unheard of and started reading Leviticus…from the beginning. At first, I found it strangely interesting. Interesting, that is, if you are a fan of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre movies. Leviticus is bloody and scary. Bringing coffee into the Sanctuary? Unwrapping your Werther’s too loudly? Wearing your NASCAR t-shirt to Sunday service? None of that compares to what happens in Leviticus. In Leviticus, doves were ripped in half. Bulls were brought to the entrance of the tent of the meeting, slaughtered, and their blood smeared on the altar. Things were set on fire. Do something wrong and you could be set on fire.
The more I read, the more I kind of got into this scary, bloody, highly-skipped-over book of the Bible. Sure, there were rules to be followed. But when we focus so much on the legalistic rules, we fail to see the grace and beauty in all of the details. That grace and beauty is God’s love for His people.
A hard time with the rules.
I often hear our older kids at Crossnore complain about the rules. I can’t do this or I can’t do that. I hate the rules! It’s not fair! Coming from lives riddled with abuse and neglect, the rules at Crossnore can seem as foreign as the rules in Leviticus. Their bodies and minds have grown accustomed to the chaos associated with trauma. Those first days, weeks, and even months at Crossnore can be difficult for both the kids and the adults charged with their care.
The reality is, those kids are really not that much different than modern day readers of Leviticus. They want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They want to give up all of the safety and security that is Crossnore because of the “Do Nots.” Like modern readers of Leviticus, it is almost impossible for them to see God’s grace in the unfair details they hate. For some, they have never even heard of God’s grace. They have very little experience with faith.
Grace and a way back.
I am prayerful each day, that as their minds and bodies heal from the trauma in their backgrounds, they begin to feel safe. I pray they know that the meal after breakfast is lunch and that dinner is after that, that they can always count on it to be that way at Crossnore. I pray they know that when they break the rules, and they will, that we do not give up on them, not the first time or the one hundredth time. At Crossnore, there is always a way back.