(somehow I managed to post my work-in-progress yesterday...sorry to those who received a half-written post...just keepin' it real ; )
Things have been getting a little more "real" lately. The vision has become reality, bringing with it a whole new set of joys, fears, and questions. The faith community that was to be now is, and the reality that it will have its own unique challenges goes without saying. After all, we are a group of individuals that each bring our own personalities, histories, upbringings and life experiences to the table. It's going to be interesting.
Probably the most profound way that I am experiencing this "real-ness" is through the challenges we face as a new work. I think it's our tendency as human beings to sort of float along when things are going well, but it's when challenges arise that things get real. For us, the challenges have been centered around making decisions about the future - where and when to gather, how to get the word out, how to structure our life together...lots of decisions for a group that is just getting to know one another! Making decisions together exposes our differences, and sometimes those differences can be hard to work through.
Another more recent way that we're getting real is by journeying together into the lows that we each face. We've had sick parents and struggling co-workers, but now the struggles of those in the group are coming to the surface. There are concerns and crises in the room that have the potential to crack open our life-as-usual routine, and make a way for authentic community to form. This is not easy, though. We expect as followers of Jesus, that there will be lots of opportunities to give to those in need, but what about when we are the ones in need? That's when things get tough, and real.
So much of my learning about what it means to be church happens outside of our group and out in the lives of those in the community. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to take a friend's neighbor to the doctor. We talked a lot about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of care, about how hard it can be to be dependent on others, and how good it feels to give back. The more we talked I realized how much I was learning from her experience. I showed up to give, but received so much. I was reminded that restoration and healing can only happen when we are able to be vulnerable enough to give and receive. While giving makes us feel good, receiving reminds us of our inadequacy. We need both to experience wholeness, to love and be loved.
I think this is what Kathy Escobar describes as downward mobility in her book, Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus. As she shares about her own faith community, she describes the ways that entering into the brokenness of her friends has led to her own transformation.
"Entering into the messy places is a core characteristic of downward living. We need a diverse mix of intentional relationships in which to tangibly practice love. ...to live down here we must consider a theology of brokenness that embraces humility as the starting place. It also means we must develop eyes to see what others do not see and to begin to make visible what is often invisible to the upwardly mobile."The faith community I felt called to create is one in which restoration is not just talked about, but experienced as we share life together. In a world where there is so much pain and brokenness, I don't think we can afford to do anything less.