Our recent Move Toward The Mess series at 801South moved me in way that was completely unexpected. I knew that I was looking forward to people hearing the stories of God changing lives through the organizations with whom we partner, but the way that these stories have resonated within me has been challenging and encouraging, especially as a leader in a local church.
From Todd Ginder sharing his experience at Oasis in Belize to Ashley Lantz sharing how Turning Point is serving victims of domestic abuse to Donn Truax of Change of 1 to the incredible story of Kennedy Krezi being rescued from a life of poverty in a Nairobi slum, I was reminded of who our God is and the story in which we get to participate. Our God is one of compassion, hope, and mercy through whom our stories are being redefined.
I remember a time early in my life as a pastor when tragedy struck the family of an infant named RJ who was in the same daycare class as my oldest son. One Sunday evening, RJ’s father was returning home from a Panthers football game with a friend. The two friends were one block from his neighborhood when he lost control of the car; which careened off the road and flipped multiple times before finally coming to a stop on an embankment. RJ’s dad did not survive the crash.
I don’t remember how I learned of the incident on the following day, but I do remember immediately getting in my car and driving to my son’s daycare. I spoke to the director of the preschool and to his teacher who shared the whole story with me. RJ was actually at the daycare when I arrived. His mother, still in shock, had dropped him off that morning. I remember holding RJ and praying for him, his mother, and their future together on that morning.
On the car ride from my office to the preschool, I remember asking myself, “Why are you doing this?” When so much of our effort is spent pursuing comfort, why would you run toward a potentially chaotic and certainly heartbreaking situation? I had met RJ’s parents during drop-offs and pick-ups, but did not know them. We would not even qualify as acquaintances. The answer came to me as I approached the daycare. This is what people who follow Jesus do. We run toward the heartache.
We are made able and motivated to run toward the heartache because that’s exactly what Jesus did. In the Message version of the Bible, we read John’s description of Jesus’ birth when Eugene Robinson writes, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” Jesus left the painless realm of heaven and ran toward our painful experience of earth. We are never more like him than when we are emulating his example by running toward the heartache of another with a message of hope.
What if every Sunday was like these past four weeks? What if we were intentional to tell stories of life change made possible by the generous sacrifice of the church? As I consider how the church (as people) continue to partner with organizations to run toward the heartache and move toward the mess, I’m convinced that an unbelieving world would lose the opportunity to label those who follow Jesus as hypocrites and begin to take notice of a larger story.
I’m incredibly grateful for the people who are being the church through our local expression of 801South and I’m expectant for the ways God will continue to change lives through our efforts to be like Jesus in moving toward the mess. This is the story into which I want to be inviting others.