“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wading into messy lives

There is a degree to which in a situation where everyone has largely perfect social skills and where few people look to us to solve their problems, we are able to do our programs in our own strength.  As we increasingly involve ourselves in the messiness of people’s lives, whether due to their choices, impairments, etc., we have less confidence about what we should do and therefore are driven to rely on the Lord for assistance.  This, in the end, is good for both those with difficult lives and others around them.  As we wade into their difficult lives in order serve them, 1) we share in the suffering of others in their messy lives, 2)  we learn service and 3)  we learn a reliance on the Lord in the midst of these extreme difficulties as neither we nor they are able to solve the complex difficulties of the lives of others.  We are compelled to dive into the scriptures to understand God’s mind and also end up in desperate prayer to seek God’s wisdom, God's direction and even God's direct intervention.  Someone very dear to me has told me that when he has cried in recent years, it has been because of the pain of others that he has sought to support.  He truly has suffered with other parts of the Body of Christ.

Although I experience this at times, I do not experience it sufficiently enough in my life.  This reveals to me the types of people I have in my life.  As I read one of my favorite passages in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 12.  Verse 26 says, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it..." and I think to myself, "I don't think so."  To me that seems more like an aspiration for the Body of Christ.  Maybe in some existential manner we all suffer together, but I don't sufficiently and the Church doesn't sufficiently feel the suffering of those in the community who suffer, in particular those who may be suffering with aspects of their experience with disability.  Obviously, not all people with impairments suffer, however, the social isolation, the comments that "I have no friends" and even the dealing with pain or other aspects of impairment, these things the church is not sufficiently aware of.  In fact a statement often given by pastors or others within the church when confronted with the reality of this experience is that "I didn't know."  How can I suffer with those who suffer if I don't even know who they are?

Our American society allows us to make a lot of assumptions about the experience of people in life.  We are aware of the presence of various human services and assume that they are sufficient to meet ALL the needs of those who use them.  As I have referred to a hundred times, we are like Scrooge replying that we pay our taxes, implying that I have no further responsibility for my neighbor because I have had money taken out of my paycheck against my will to support them through government programs. 
I would argue that not only are these government programs insufficient, the models they are based upon are so wrong that the exacerbate many of the problems they claim to be addressing. 
But I will never know that unless I wade into the lives of those who are living on what appears to be a different side of the sovereignty of God than I am.

When I wade into the problems of others, and feel overwhelmed like they do, and feel hopeless like they do, and feel alone like they do, their experience guides ME to total reliance on God and perhaps through my reliance on God, guides them to reliance on God.  We should suffer with those who suffer so that we can become the Body of Christ described in 1 Corinthians 12.

May God give us the desire us to become his body.


Ann Holmes said...

Thanks, Jeff, for this provocative article! What you said about "...those who are living on what appears to be a different side of the sovereignty of God than I am." is powerful and challenges both my heart and my thinking!

Shelly Hendricks said...

As a Christian living with chronic illness and disability, I was really touched by this article! I would like to add that the relationship in the body goes both ways. Something I have asked God to help me with is to find enough humility to let others know when I need them, when I am suffering. I think most of my brothers and sisters are willing to wade in if they knew I had a need. It's my pride that gets in the way of that relationship sometimes.