I’m at that stage of life where I feel like I’m arranging a curio cabinet as I decide what I’m going to be, where I’m going to be it, with whom I’ll be it, and when I’ll start. Like if I spend enough time arranging it and making careful choices it’ll be just perfect and I can just merge my imperfect self right in.
Like I could really just filter out anything that I don’t want, anyone I don’t want. Maybe it’s my generation of entitlement speaking here, but the thought is that I’ve got the world on a string and might just be able to manufacture a perfect life.
Experience tells me this is not so. I also have been reminded that no job (however wonderful) is without flaws and frustrations. No friendship is without exasperation or hurt. No family is without their irritations or estrangements. No church is without their points of contention. (and I’m not just saying this to make you feel better if your communities aren’t perfect. Really, none are.)
The world we live in is far from perfect – like after God arranged it all just as it should be humanity shook it all up and decided to try to make a life in the mess.
So here’s what I’m dealing with now: do I live apart from my imperfect communities and experiences and people, or do I live as a part of it? (Don’t you just love these grammar nuances?)
Criticism comes to easily to me. It’s a gift when I’m editing a manuscript for someone who needs me to be ruthless and to question every decision they made. Because those who follow me will be just as critical. It’s not a gift when I can sit on my high horse (which you’ll remember I tried to sell last year) and point and shake my head.
This is painful to write.
It’s painful to admit that I see and shake my head when others could easily do the same to me.
But when you sit apart, you don’t fix anything. You don’t engage. You don’t learn or have opportunities to understand. You’re apart, which probably breeds stagnancy.
Here’s what got me started thinking about this again:
When we sit apart, we miss seeing people’s needs and their brokenness that makes them act this way.
You’ve seen the news about Josh Duggar, right? That he was a porn addict which lead him to extramarital affairs and having an Ashley Madison account, all the while claiming to be a born-again Christian and advocating for families? Yeah, I saw that and thought: That man is the scum of the earth.
What he did is not defendable. There are no excuses for it. He made horrible choices that will have repercussions not only for him but for his wife (can you imagine the incredible pain she must be in?), his children, the rest of his family, and everyone who ever trusted him even a little bit.
But he did it because he is broken.
In desperate need of a Savior to say, Your sins are as scarlet (red, staining, bloody hands, have you ever noticed that ketchup and red wine are the hardest to get out of your clothing? Especially your white clothing?), but I will wash them white as snow (not the slushy stuff of the sides of the highways and parking lots but the freshly fallen snow). Jesus brings redemption into brokenness. Not even just cracked behavior, where the fissures don’t affect as many people. Josh Duggar is not beyond God’s saving grace.
This is the time for God’s people, holy and dearly loved by a Savior who scrubs our stains out every day, to press in and speak the truth of the Gospel that does not condone sin but acknowledges that humanity is powerless to save itself and needs to accept the grace of God.
Not just to Josh Duggar but to the people who have hurt us or who irritate us or who disagree with us, those whose lifestyles and choices and beliefs offend us, to the communities that don’t meed our needs but aren’t about us anyway, to the workplaces that stress and stretch, to the families that wear us thin sometimes.
And if we’re worried about people getting off scot free or feeling like they haven’t done wrong, we needn’t. Has anyone ever forgiven you for something you’ve done wrong? Like really wrong? Undeserved grace and life brings the deepest gratitude, and the process of sanctification that follows is anything but painless and smooth. (welcome to the bumpy ride)
Being a part will bring us deeper understanding of God’s grace and human hearts than we could ever have standing apart.