This post is part of the October Synchroblog “Down We Go”. This month’s theme explores the idea of Jesus calling us to go down into the low and messy places of life–intersecting with the lepers, the lonely, the outcasts, the marginalized – to live a life of humility, love, and interdependence.
There is a lot of talk these days about Christians getting their hands dirty – about how followers of Christ need to be willing to get down into the mess of life. This kind of talk scares off some people as they begin to try and imagine what that means and what it would require.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t require that people take the drastic measures they usually imagine.
If you want to join in the mess of life just become a part of a community.
Yes, you heard me right.
I know a lot of people think that being involved in a community is one of the easier things that a follower of Christ has to do.
But the reality is that community is hard – community is messy.
Community is messy because people are messy.
Different opinions, different perspectives of right and wrong, different understandings of scripture, different ideas about how to do things, different backgrounds, different histories, different strengths and weaknesses, different personalities, different desires, different passions, different talents, different interests … I could go on but you get the idea.
All of our differences are what makes community so hard and messy.
But it is among the messiness and the challenges and the difficulties that we learn how to be like Christ.
The way to learn how to become like Jesus is to love. The only way we can learn how to love is to practice it in close relationship, and have our lives rub up against each other, including doing so with people who are different from us. Loving people just like us is not that difficult. Loving people who never change, who bug the hell out of us, who aren’t kind or thankful, who don’t pass on grace even though they’ve received heaps of it—that requires much more work. In other words, love is best practiced in the spaces that require it. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus challenges us to—to live into the spaces that only come through a path of descent?” –Kathy Escobar from “Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus”–
Someone might wonder why in the world anyone would ever want to be a part of something so horrible as community.
Maybe it is because the sharing of life – the accomplishments, the milestones, the aha moments, the discoveries, the ideas, the experiences are all so much more meaningful and exhilarating and worthwhile when they are shared within a community. The failures, the difficulties, the losses, the set-backs, the disappointments, the losses, the injustices, the wrongs of life are all so much more bearable when endured within a community.
The thing about community is that it is like washing down a bitter pill with a very sweet and delectable nectar … even though community is hard and messy, it is a beautiful mess.
For more on this idea pick up Kathy Escobar’s book “Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus” and check out the other posts for this month’s synchroblog by following the links listed here:
- Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
- Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
- Glenn Hager – Pretty People
- David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
- Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
- Leah Randall – Jacked Up
- Leah Randall (her other voice) – How Low Can We Go
- Liz Dyer – A Beautiful Mess
- Maria Anderson – Down
- Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
- Leah Sophia – Down We Go
- Hugh Hollowell – Downward
- Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
- Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
- Sonja Andrews – Diversion and Distraction
- Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
- Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl
Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Play with abandon.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.
-Mary Anne Radmacher-
(Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neurokinetikz/36414867/ )
This post is part of the January 2011 Synchroblog “The Manifestation Of God”. This month’s synchroblog is inspired by The Season Of Epiphany, which runs from January 6 to the day before Ash Wednesday. You can find a list of all participants at the end of this post.
An “epiphany” is a sudden realization, a breakthrough discovery, a brilliant idea, a light bulb coming on, one of those “AHA!” moments.
For instance … Archimedes, the Greek Philosopher, who discovered the law of buoyancy (known as The Archimedes Principle) had an epiphany one day when he stepped into his bathtub.
The story goes that the king of the day wanted a new crown made entirely of gold. After the goldsmith made it, the king was suspicious that the goldsmith had made it of iron or silver and coated it with gold. The king did not want to destroy the crown in case it was gold, so he asked Archimedes to figure out if it was pure gold or not without destroying the crown. Archimedes thought about this day in and day out until one day while getting into his bath he discovered the principle that bears his name. Supposedly, he was so excited and anxious to share his discovery that he jumped out of the bathtub and ran through the streets naked shouting “Eureka!” (which in Greek meant “I found it!”)
We have all had those types of experiences when a solution or a realization seems to pop into our mind out of nowhere, but in reality the idea has come from within ourselves and has been produced from our own ability to think and reason.
And then … there is another kind of “epiphany” – it shares the idea of realization, discovery and light bulbs coming on – but it is different in that it isn’t produced because of our own thinking and reasoning – this epiphany comes to us through a Manifestation of God. It is a revealing, a shining forth, an appearance. God reveals something to us and “Eureka!” we have an epiphany – about God, ourselves, truth, others, love, suffering, life etc. etc. We could not have arrived where these epiphanies take us by our own ability to think and reason – it is not an experience that we can create from within, it requires “God breaking through”. These kinds of experiences – these “God breaking through” moments – always change us.
As D. H. Lawrence said, “people can do anything they want with an idea, but a truly new experience changes everything. Before you can do anything with it, it does something with you.”
The problem with these epiphanies is that when you describe them to others they often sound rather unimpressive. Of course, there are exceptions – a burning bush, a talking donkey, the transfiguration of Jesus – but for most of us it is something we hear or observe or read and when we go to relay the story and our epiphany to someone else they look at us like “how did you get that out of that???” But we know! We know that God has broken through to us because we have realized or discovered something (and in a way) that only God could have expressed or revealed.
Sometimes I have had a “God breaking through” moment about something that I thought I already knew and, in a way I did know it, but only in my head (as they say) – not in my heart – not in the way I needed to know it – not in the way that it formed me.
For instance, years ago I was preparing to speak to a group of Christian women around Valentines Day. Well, I was preparing to prepare … in other words, I had no idea what I was going to say. I figured that love was a good subject but had no good ideas about what I should say about love. I was becoming pretty anxious about it as the event was only a few days away. I was new in the community and I wanted to be liked and accepted. I wanted to say something worthy, memorable, profound about love – something that would endear me to this new group that I wanted to fit in with. I went to sleep that night asking God to give me “something good” to say and also asking myself why in the world I had accepted the invitation to speak.
At some point during the night I dreamt that I was a student at an elite dancing academy. I loved it there and I loved my instructor. I was a good student, a good dancer and I had a good relationship with my instructor. I was trying out for an upcoming show and I felt confident that I would be accepted for one of the parts, but when the instructor read off the names of those who made it into the show my name was absent. I was shocked and disappointed. How could she not pick me? I was very good and she liked me. Why?
Next thing I know (you know how dreams jump around) I am rehearsing with the dancers who were going to be in the show because one of them got sick, had to drop out and I was chosen to take her place. I was very excited and felt that I was just where I should be. The instructor was giving us direction and correcting us as we were rehearsing and then suddenly the rehearsal was over. As we were all walking out, the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment. After the other dancers left she told me that I wouldn’t be able to be in the show because I just wasn’t good enough yet. I was crushed and devastated. I began to cry.
All of a sudden I realize I am standing in a humongous industrial kitchen. I really have no idea what I am doing there or why I am wearing a chef’s coat. I look around and find a man preparing some food at one of the nearby steel counters. I walk over to him and ask him what is going on. He tells me the Executive Chef is looking for a new Sous Chef and wants to talk to me. I’m dumbfounded! I am not much of a cook and much less a chef. Why in the world would he want to talk to me? Where did I even get this chef’s coat? How did I get here? What in the world is going on?
Just when I am about to run out of there the Executive Chef walks in. He walks right up to me, hands me a chef’s hat and says, “Liz, I want you to be my new Sous Chef.”
I stare at him in disbelief and can only manage to ask, “Why?”
He just looks at me and says, “Because I love you.”
At that very moment I woke up.
“Eureka!” I knew in a way that I had never known before that God loved me unconditionally – not because I was good at something – not because I performed well – not because of what I knew or had learned or perfected – he loved me and accepted me – period.
I also had an idea (hope?) that being accepted and loved by my new community wasn’t going to be based on my ability to give a good presentation.
And on top of that I had what I needed to give my presentation.
Sure, I would have told you before that dream that God’s love for me was not based on my performance – but after that dream it was real to me. I didn’t just know what someone had taught me or what I had read – I knew it in my heart in a way that would change me and change the way I would prepare to speak before a crowd, the way I would approach a new community, the way I would take care of my family, the way I would help others, the way I would be a friend, the way I would think, the way I would live. I knew it in a way that made me more vulnerable, more transparent, more real, more me.
It was one of those “God Breaking Through” moments and I was forever changed.
I will post the list of participants here as they become available:
I think Steve Fitzhugh and Dan Britton started the idea of replacing New Year’s resolutions with a one word theme for the upcoming year.
The one word theme is to be a word to focus on, meditate on and reflect upon throughout the new year. It has become a popular trend over the last few years and I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback, so I thought I would give it a try this year…
My one word for 2011 is (drumroll…………………………..)
I’ve chosen “awaken” as my word because there have been thoughts and ideas I have been pondering during Advent (see this post Advent: A Journey of Awakening) that are captured in the word “awaken”. I have been thinking a lot about the value of intentionally being present in the moment, of being aware of what makes me feel most alive, of being watchful for divine activity, of being conscious and giving recognition to thoughts and feelings even if they are not positive (I have a tendency to push away, stop, repress or ignore negative thoughts and feelings). So, throughout the coming year I am going to focus on this theme of “awaken” and see where the journey leads to and what is revealed.
Do you like the idea of choosing one word as a theme for the upcoming year? If so, what word would/will you choose and why?