Service is heavy on my heart these days. Just today I read an article in Relevant magazine that talked about the continuing struggles in Haiti, their needs, the church’s role in the matter, and the continued perseverance of a population that has dealt with hardship and despair throughout the last 300 years. (You can read the article HERE. It’s long, so print it off if you have to)
I also started reading Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in our Gospel. Stearns is the president of World Vision and so far in the book has talked about his coming into his current position and how as the American church, we miss the idea of reaching out. He discussed the idea in the Lord’s Prayer of, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Couple that with two books that I’ve just ordered, The Wisdom of Stability and AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Both books deal with being a Christian to the fullest extent of the word within you current community.
So to say the least, service is heavy on my mind.
But then enters the conflict: Are you even qualified to attempt what you’re thinking? Do you think that you have what it takes to actually be the person that you want to be?
At the end of June I took my youth group to Thunder Bay, ON for a mission trip. It was a great trip, we accomplished a lot. Like each summer missions trip I take the youth on, I saw growth and determination in their character. I saw great things that we were doing for the community of Thunder Bay.
On the way home from Thunder Bay, we were going through Duluth, MN. I have a close friend that is a piercer, and I decided it was time to get my lobes pierced. It was something that I’ve wanted to do since my friend and I were roommates in college. Well, long story short we had to do it in his house…which was the straw that broke the pony’s back. You see, in my weariness and exhaustion of the previous week (and really previous three months of a full schedule) I let my guard down, my character down and my responsibilities down.
The parents of some of the youth didn’t think this was something that I should have done, and spared no words in describing their anger and disapproval. For the past three weeks, I’ve been doing nothing but spewing humble apologies and words of regret. With each conversation I have with a parent about the event, I get to relive my weak moments of guilty selfishness that lead to a month of hot tempers, sleepless nights, and utter disappointment.
Silently the voices start whispering more and more, “See? You’re a failure! You can’t lead a mission trip; you think that you’ll be able to minister to these kids? They’ll see right through you! You’re a joke, a liar, and a selfish piece of crap!” The longer I dwell on the whispers and the more I relive the painful parent meetings and phone calls, the angrier I get. The longer I let it go on, the more justified I feel. It becomes an issue of me against them. Do you know who wins in a fight between parents and a youth pastor? The parents, each and every time. The more hopeless I feel, the more helpless I become. Because of pierced ears I start rethinking my entire call and career. Do I really think that I can do this forever?
I know I’m not the only one that has a moment of failure. In fact, I don’t believe this little thing is going to be the last from me either. But the question remains: why do some things hurt so badly?
I used to not be able to comprehend people that had lifelong disputes with friends and family. Someone said something to their brother/sister/whatever 50 years ago and they still haven’t forgiven each other. Chances are they don’t even remember who said what to make each other so mad at each other. But yet here they are, divided. And that’s why I think some things hurt so much. They cause division.
Through this whole thing with the ears, there were times where I was considering resigning and moving on to something else. What would this accomplish? It would get me out of a lot of hurt feelings and hard conversations. But for the furthering of the Kingdom of God, what would it accomplish? Nothing. It’d be a hindrance. It’d be a division. Where in the Bible is division an ordained plan? It seems to me that almost exclusively Jesus talks about unity within the church and between each other. It seems to me that he says “Love your neighbor” and not “Love your neighbor until they really piss you off, then move or stop talking to them.”
The main theme of the Bible seems to be reconciliation. Reconciliation between us and God. It seems to be about us sinning and God paying for that sin so that we can be reunited. If in the Greatest Commandments loving God entails reuniting and unifying ourselves with God, then wouldn’t loving your neighbor consist of reuniting and unifying ourselves with others? And since these are the famed, “Greatest” Commandments, shouldn’t they be numbers one and two when it comes to how we live our lives? I don’t read anywhere in there to “Love your God and Judge your Neighbor.” I don’t read anywhere in there, “Say what you want and ask for forgiveness later.” Or, “Judgment is acceptable under the guise of ‘I’m concerned for their souls!’” Or maybe even worse, “I hate that people suffer and live in poverty, and I’d help fight it, but really I can’t fit it into my schedule.”
Now this isn’t me saying we all need to drop everything, move to Africa and care for orphans. Some are called there. Some are not. This is me saying that in every area, there are people suffering. It may be from outward abuses of poverty and hunger. Or it may be from inward demons of depression, isolation, loneliness, abandonment. This is me saying that we all suffer. There’s nothing we can do about it, we started suffering when Adam and Eve ate the fruit. We nailed a dividing stake between us and God by going against his perfect will for us in the Garden of Eden.
But there is hope. There is hope in the unifying love of Christ. There is hope that comes through loving God and loving others. There is hope through grabbing onto Christ’s tassels like the lady in Matthew 9. There is hope that comes from Christ, through Christians that are concerned for others. There is hope if when we decide to touch Christ’s cloak, fully embracing his redemptive and healing power through his love. But then, from the feet of Jesus, living as a beacon to those still hurting, those still suffering. We won’t achieve perfect unity this side of heaven. But maybe, just maybe, if we work together, we can bring small slices of heaven to those that need it most, both down the street and around the world.