I cannot run the race weighed down with so much excess; the indulgences sabotage the pace. All this time I’ve been slogging through the kingdom, dragging my luxuries and entitlement behind me … But as I slowly (and sometimes begrudgingly) dropped a few extravagances on the shoulder, something happened: not only did the pace pick up, but I suddenly noticed other weary, hungry, beautiful people littered along the course, sidelined by hunger and disease and poverty … When my hands were emptied of carrying my own entitlement, I was free to slip my arm around their waists, walking those first tentative steps with them until they got their legs under them … Because we live in a broken, sinful world, we who are strong are required to bear with those who are weak. ~ Jen Hatmaker in The 7 Experiment
If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I have been on a journey, rediscovering what it means (and does not mean) to actually be the Church, finding my own place of service, learning more about my community and the people who live here.
I am here today to say: I have not arrived. Truthfully, I have only made a few baby steps in this direction. I have had some high moments when I could clearly see God moving and working, and other extremely low moments when I realized how sinful and selfish I actually am.
Here are a few things I have learned:
- As the Bride of Christ, we have forgotten our mission to a lost, dying, and needy world. We are called to go out, not to stay at home and fulfill our own wants, preferences, pet projects, or whatever. I have personally spent too much time making church a social club rather than a hospital for the sick. This is not acceptable.
- I have too much stuff. I was taught that if you have paid all your bills, given a little to the church, and put a little in savings, whatever is left is yours to do with whatever you want. That accounts for the boxes and boxes filled with stuff that I have hauled out of this house for the past six months. I still open cabinets, closets, and drawers and see things that we could do without. And then I drive a half a mile from my house and see children who do not know where they will get their next meal. The cycle of buying just to accumulate stuff needs to stop.
- I need to be a better neighbor. Living in a subdivision with fenced backyards and no front porches makes getting to know neighbors a little more challenging. So, I need to work harder. I need to spend more time with my son’s friends and their moms. I need to reach out to new faces at church. We need to be in each other’s lives, even if it is time-consuming and messy.
- Community ministry is hard work. Last night, we were cooking a meal for an event when we found out it was cancelled at the eleventh hour. Yes, I grumbled a little. But we are slowly, slowly building bridges with other community agencies and leaders. Each step we take in faith gets us out of our sheltered lives and into the messy, needy, difficult world where people actually live.
Here’s what I know the future holds:
- More play dates and relationship building with the people God has placed in my path.
- A garden, shared with at least four other families, with part of the harvest going to our church’s food pantry.
- Investing in our community by supporting local businesses and ministries.
- Continued outreach to our impoverished neighbors.
- Re-evaluation of our financial resources and how we can invest in Kingdom purposes.
- Prayer for possible future mission trips. We are considering two separate trips next year. Would you pray about this with us? The money and time commitments would be enormous.
What about you? How is God moving you to reach beyond what is comfortable and find your place of service in a broken world?