I just returned from two weeks of travelling to California—Mexico—California–Georgia. (My bags are still not back from California!) It was wonderful to see old friends and visit new places. Now I am eager to get on with it. Circle of Hope always looks so beautiful from a distance! — close up, too, of course, but ravishing from a distance. And the mission we share with other Christ followers seems even more pressing, given all the things I experienced.
Here are three of the things I learned, again, about our mission during my travels:
1) To have a decent impact on the world for Jesus, it takes living in a community that can get along. It would be great if people just did what they were told, but they need to be loved, heard and included in order to get to being led.
At the BIC General Conference our community was falling apart and we spent all our efforts and passion trying to figure out whether we could hold together. Just last night I spoke to another person who attended the conference who was scratching their head, wondering at the fear-based approach we seem to practice. It seems to be an assumption that people will not get along, so don’t let them try. It seems to be a big fear that unseemly people will say things, so we don’t let anyone say anything. That doesn’t work.
People know the Lord by how we love one another, Jesus says. Working out authentic community is a top priority for the mission.
2) To have a decent impact on the world for Jesus, it takes solitude and rest. If we are in mission with Jesus, we are in over our heads, just putting our hands to the plow. We are not superheroes (like Batman taking punches from Bane); we need to recuperate and get some resources.
Sitting on a beach in Mexico is a luxury for most of the world, so I understand that my resources afford me great privilege in gaining some rest. But however one can achieve it, it takes Sabbath to do good work. It takes not working to work. If we are just surviving the daily onslaught without gaining resources of personal strength, we basically have to shut down and be steely most of the time, grit our teeth and survive. We should never underestimate the power of our personal defense systems to shut us down when we are threatened. We can live perpetually threatened and never have the sense of capacity that allows us to reach out with truth and love. It takes a lot of personal time with Jesus to have our defenses eased.
People know the Lord by knowing people who know the Lord. Having enough space to develop our relationship with God and not just keep the wheels turning is crucial.
3) To have a decent impact on the world for Jesus, it takes leaving one’s family and home and coming back married to Jesus. It is painful, but there is often a contest between those we love for who gets to direct our lives. Jesus should win or everyone loses.
At the wedding I had to note how easy it is to put up with our loved one’s self-destructive behavior, even adapt to it, rather than speaking and living grace into it. There is nothing like entering a family system and an extended friendship circle gathered for the blessed event to get a good look at how things work. Jesus was rather plain about loving his family and friends, but he also very plainly told them to get behind him, as if they were Satan, if they tried to deter his mission. How we love who we love is probably the hardest thing we ever have to learn as a co-worker of Jesus. If our small loves undermine the greatest love, it is a great loss.
People get to know the Lord by hearing and seeing the revelation clearly. There is not really a way to keep the picture totally unmuddled, but we can’t serve the muddle, nonetheless.