A funny truth to tell is…
there was a time I thought I could escape pain…
Sure I knew life encompassed losses and was full of all kinds of random mishaps which involved various levels of pain but I was convinced I could avoid certain pieces of it.
So I kept myself from relationships that would open me up to any kind of hurt and I spent hours building my muscles for when I might have to rely upon my physical toughness to combat pain.
It’s funny the great lengths we’ll go to avoid hurt.
I was under the impression that if I was skillful enough I might even be able to navigate through life escaping its’ more painful occurrences.
I naively thought pain came to those who were less aware of its’ threats.
You see, I had experienced enough pain in my life to know I wanted to escape it.
I spent years running from it, numbing it and detesting its presence.
Because when it did somehow leak itself into my life I desperately fought to feel its effects.
Years later when I found God I thought it meant a lessening of any painful incidents. I assumed with God being good he must want good for me which equated less pain too.
Of course this isn’t accurate or even true but it was a lie I told myself.
I learned the ‘hard’ way that my thinking was an even greater symptom of a faulty faith.
And throughout the years as my faith has gone through a lot of remolding God has graciously carried me through.
Faith isn’t just something we one day get, it’s a process we grow through.
And it’s not as if God ever left me alone in my incorrect thinking…in fact that’s one of the most beautiful things about him that he patiently walks with us during these times.
And the odd thing is I know I’m still learning….I’m continually growing and readjusting my faith.
Because friends life happens and things that used to easily be accepted get challenged and strengthened.
A beautiful friend and I were just talking about this yesterday…how our faith is a process that’s going to take a lifetime for us to understand.
What’s even more amazing is I’ve wrestled through this faith journey while serving in the church…because even those completely committed to the furthering of the Kingdom are being tried in their faith…
Because this is where passion and fervor become birthed and plainly & simple, this is where God wants us to be!
Moments I’ve asked myself as Jesus asked…
‘Can you drink this cup?’
Jesus asked his disciples this as he spoke of the pain and suffering they’d bear as his followers.
And as one of his followers the question continually rings in my ears too…
It plays this melody when my heart aches to be close to my loved ones but because of our commitments to the furthering of the gospel we are scattered about.
It rings in my ears when my brokenness battles feelings of shame over my shattered soul and I feel the impact it’s bringing to those who have to feel its sharp edges, it’s heard when ministry gets hard and even ugly because of the brokenness of our world…
and I ask myself….
Can I drink this cup if it means what I drink will become emptied to a hurting world?
Can I drink in all its’ goodness even with all the pain and sorrow that will come too?
Will I live this life fully regardless of what happens?
And this is where my heart is often pierced and I have to come face to face with what I believe…
I remember when this question weighed especially heavily on my chest.
We were young and fully saturated in ministry when I found myself dissecting this question…
We were experiencing so many hard things all at once and I felt so alone.
Such a difficult time that I couldn’t see the holiness that was lingering inside of our circumstances.
For some reason my attention kept being drawn to my pain more than anything else.
The wounds were oozing from so many places…multiple health concerns continuously landing us into hospitals only finding ourselves coming home with handfuls of medicines to ease our symptoms. Yet others of it coming from people who struggled to look at the hurt in our lives- for even brokenness has a hard time seeing itself.
And then there was a lifetime of wounds I’d collected that were all wound up so tightly I couldn’t make a distinction of what they all meant or where they came from.
We don’t always know what is at the core of our soul and our hurt…but we experience its presence when something hard whisks into our lives and triggers something underneath.
It can feel like something is stuck deep within the walls of our chests and we find ourselves holding our breath.
It’s here we wonder if we’ll ever feel whole again…when the brokenness won’t be broken anymore…
During this very painful time,
I remember feeling hurt more than I felt care.
Which I honestly don’t blame anyone for…
The truth is…
I am guilty of this too…
I often want to find a cure rather than care for what is broken.
I’ll say a quick prayer in hopes of removing pain.
I’d rather be a pain-reliever than walking the road of suffering with them.
I’m tempted to offer antidotes than hold their hand and steady their heart.
I even find myself wrapping bandages covering the ugliness of wounds rather than pursuing true healing.
It’s a temptation that is all too familiar.
Because honestly speaking walking with people through messes is just plain hard…and time consuming and sometimes we can feel like we have enough of a mess waiting for us at home to deal with someone else’s.
I tell you that I get it…now…
But at the time I didn’t fully understand it.
I don’t know if I was in too much pain to see it clearly or if I honestly just had to walk through it myself to understand…
Whatever it was it felt real and it felt overwhelming.
Because when I was there, I just wanted someone to understand…to listen to my hurt and care for me.
I didn’t know how I just knew I needed them to walk with me through it and yet its funny to ponder back through those days and see what God was doing all the while I felt abandoned and alone.
My faith didn’t need a Savior…I already had one.
It didn’t need a healer…I had the great Physician.
I didn’t need someone to always be present…I had the One who promised to never leave or forsake me.
But I believed what the world told me -that people were supposed to soothe the hurts I held within.
Yet it was in this brittle season I found that which would become my constant inside every wintry storm I’d endeavor…
Yes, I know he was always there but I was to busy looking for others to know him like this.
It took me cracking my soul wide open and inviting him into my brokenness to find his healing.
And in this beautiful community of the church I found something else too…
I found that there’s nothing easy about it.
You see we all bring our sorrows our joys and we gather together in our broken state.
We bravely uncover our wounds expressing our hope in the One who meets our needs and heals our hurts.
We gather together with our individual wounds and we share them with one another knowing if we carry them alone they’re insufferable yet together, they become a beautiful source of healing within this community of love and care.
the very thing my heart was growing disdain for,
a tempting of my soul to run away from sweetly became
the place my soul found its’ soul-full rest and I found I belonged…
I also realized something else….that God wasn’t changing them, because he was changing ME!
You see this community is a lot like a stained glass window…
We come inside it with our jagged and broken edges.
Alone they have the potential of cutting and hurting others and we’re tempted to compare, judge and even attach them to our value and worth.
Yet something simply breathtaking occurs when these little pieces brought together form the heart of Christ…
It’s here that people find healing for their broken souls, where the homeless find shelter for their wandering hearts and where together we contribute to the rebuilding of God’s Kingdom.
It’s where each of us is essential and necessary.
For together we make community.
And when even one of these tiny pieces are missing, we are incomplete.
This my friend is the beauty of community!
It is where our small contributions affix themselves to one another and we reflect God to our world…
Where our broken pieces find a beautiful place of belonging and purpose…our spirit calms, our faith builds and our soul finds its deepest mending in the gathering of this community…
and yet when we sometimes wake up and find ourselves wondering why the community we’re currently is so desperately in need of something else.
When it feels like people’s hearts are so damaged and their insides are hanging all over…this my friend is when we must be reminded who Jesus came for-
not the healthy and the whole but for the broken and the sick…for those who like us, need him and need us.
….this my friend is where the church becomes beautiful and where God promises to make ‘all’ new.
And the process of becoming new is a lifelong process we’re all traveling…so be compassionate dear soul to yourself but also to those we’re called to love…
we’re all on this journey to become whole…
….so, love more extravagantly and heal more wholly and love again and again until Jesus returns…
this my friend is drinking the cup Jesus asked his disciples to sip from and the one he asks us to drink and pour from as well….this dear one is the church we’re called to…it’s not a journey we’re meant to travel alone but one we go together!