Serving from the brokenness
The thought popped in my head not too long ago and startled me. The widows and the orphans. The poor. The broken. The old. The marginalized. Serve them.
But I don’t do that crap anymore.
But that stuff is for the Super-Christians.
But I’m still healing.
There was a time in my life I sang on the worship team and worked in the church nursery, led small groups for junior high girls, volunteered to lead high school retreats, set up chairs, baked casseroles, invited 15 teenage girls to sleep on the floor of my 1-bedroom apartment.
Five years ago, Joe and I were literally kicked out of our church by the senior pastor. All the serving came to a ugly, screeching halt. When this happened, we were encouraged by some to jump right back in at a new church, as if the Christian life is a bus that can leave you behind if you hesitate at the station.
We didn’t do that, because we couldn’t, or didn’t want to, or something in between.
I’ve spent five years quietly licking my wounds, bristling when someone gushes about their recent mission trip, or their thriving student ministry, or so-and-so’s growing food pantry.
Bleh, ugh, and yawn. I’d think.
“Good for you,” I’d say, striking down their enthusiasm with indifference.
I’ve learned at least two things in the last five years: 1) That even if I never served again, God would still love me. And 2) Life is kind of empty when you’re not giving back.
I’ve been isolated from community for a long time. All I could see were the Super Churched inviting me to all their Exciting Bible Studies and Outreach Programs, and around them I felt vaguely nauseated and guilty for my cynicism and for not wanting anything to do with it.
Then I found solace with a group of people on the Internet committed to telling their truths and caring for others in ways that didn’t scare me.
It started – as it does for so many – with Rachel Held Evans. I found “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” at the bookstore about a year ago, and almost bought it. I actually carried it to the checkout counter before turning around and putting it back on the shelf. I just wasn’t ready.*
But I did go home and type her name into Google. Through her blog, I stumbled on an arsenal of inspiring people I never knew existed, people who are allowing love and justice – not bitterness – to seep through the cracks of their brokenness.
Kelsey Munger and Micah J. Murray are helping others find redemption from childhood church abuse. Esther Emery is an advocate the poor and marginalized, and a balm for anyone who has felt like an outcast. Natalie Trust shows us a way to healing after betrayal and to God after tragedy. And there’s so many more.
More and more I started to notice people in my own community who are quietly making a difference – the ones who do not draw attention to themselves, but faithfully work in the background because they care about others. They are hidden under the blankets they knit for homeless people. They are listening to stories from people about to die at the local nursing home. They are the ones who give anonymously to the single mom who wants to buy her children new school clothes.
Everyday I feel a little more ready to uncross my arms and open up, to be a part of this tribe of imperfect people who serve – not because they’ve arrived or have all the answers, but because they want to make their communities a little more peaceful, a little more fair, a little more loving.
Maybe that’s what Jesus had in mind for us all along – simply becoming people vulnerable enough to tell our own stories and working earnestly to bring justice into someone else’s. We’ve heard that hurt people hurt people, but maybe hurt people have been given the compassion and insight to reach others who are broken in a way that the Excited Bible Study Inviters just can’t.
But I’m a terrible example of Grace.
But my language.
But I really sometimes almost hate church.
But I’m so messed up.
And to those voices, I say:
*I did go back and read “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” a year later, and I wish I hadn’t been so scared of it. It really wasn’t what I thought it would be.
Photo by elycefeliz, Flickr Creative Commons.