Hi Sweet Friends,
Kevin recently asked me to share at church how participating in the different ministries Grace Fellowship is involved in has changed me. I said, “No thanks, but I will write it and you can read it.” This month’s blog is my response to Kevin’s request.
I am ashamed to say that for much of my life, I thought it was virtuous to stay away from people who had chosen to live very differently than I had. I wrongly believed that good Christians didn’t associate with those who drank, used drugs, were in unmarried sexual relationships, had broken the law, or lived apart from acceptance in Jesus. I thought it was good to treat them as mission projects, but certainly not have a relationship with them. I would throw them bones of money, food, and charity while keeping my distance. Their circumstances were consequences of their sin and choices, after all. I thought that was being a good Christian. I had placed myself in a hierarchy of people that I had self-labeled: me and my people with my standards at the top, and everyone else according to where they ranked on my comfort level. I’m grateful that God has opened my eyes to my own sin. When I feel superior to anyone, it’s arrogant and unloving. The truth is, I used the thought of not being “of” the world to disguise the fear of people I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate with. The discomfort led me to claim righteous excuses for my sin and wrong thinking. I thank God for His faithfulness in loving me and growing me up in places in me that lied about His character and His love and grace.
Through the ministries that Grace Fellowship has felt led to partner with, I was thrust into the midst of hurting, needy people that God used to show me His heart. Suddenly the foggy image of bad behavior took on the faces and names of precious men and women whose hearts, bodies, and relationships were broken, seemingly beyond repair but for the gracious healing of Christ. And somehow, we became part of that healing. And somehow, they became part of my healing.
My belief that everyone has the opportunity to make good choices for the path of their lives was challenged by stories of people that never knew there were choices. Trying to survive takes on a mentality of doing whatever it takes to not die. And sometimes, not dying looks like doing whatever it takes to fill the gaping hole left by living in a broken world, or at least numbing the pain for a short time. Acceptance or rejection of Jesus isn’t even on the table for many, especially for those who have never heard or seen evidence of His rescue for them. Then there are others who were raised by loving parents and given every opportunity for a productive life and threw it all away. They had a hole to fill as well, and they believed a lie. We all have a hole to fill. We’ve all believed lies. Satan spares no one.
Grace says, “Me too,” when I look at a hurting, broken soul, not, “How could you?” The recognition that there is no dark place that my heart cannot go to if left unguarded will keep me loving and humble. Jesus chose the scrappy “least of these” to take the gospel to the world and lead His church. He lived among and showed up in the lives of the hurting and needy with His love and truth and said to His followers, “Go and do likewise. Show them a different way. Tell them My story, that I bought them with my blood because they are so precious to their Creator. Tell them that’s what love does.”
So, when I see in God’s Word to feed the hungry, how do I do that? To care for the widows and orphans, what does that look like? To visit prisoners and care for the poor, what do I do? The ministries that Grace Fellowship partners with addresses all of those things. And through those opportunities, we meet and form relationships with real people with real hurts and needs and we become Jesus in our love for them. We don’t fix anything; we just show up and ask God how He wants us to join Him in this moment and this place. And He is pleased. It is the very life of Christ.
If I’m honest, and I always want to be, even knowing and believing everything I just said, I still struggle to show up at these ministries. I battle wanting to stay home, wondering if it really matters, being weary of the feeling of pulling and tugging on people. But I know that every time I say “no” to selfishness, the life of Christ is released in me. Every time I resist just doing me, an arrow is shot at our enemy, and the glory of God breaks through the darkness. God, in His love and grace, isn’t just working through me for others; He’s also showing up for me, making my heart like His, rescuing me from myself. He’s healing me too. Something that always helps me when I struggle to show up is to say, “If Jesus just did Him, we would be up a creek.” I hear Him speak in a western Kentucky voice. I have a Savior because He entered my world and gave it all. Let’s go and do likewise.