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Abide, One Year Later

A few years ago, our world got rocked.  Suddenly, the places that we had grown so accustomed to were no longer comfortable. The tremors we had been able to brush off for so long were starting to make things quake all around us. The things we had worked so hard to explain away, to push into the shadows, were laying out in plain sight and we could no longer pretend we couldn't see. There was no one thing we could pinpoint, so we tried to deny the thousands that kept us awake at night.

We were among those who had been entrusted with the sacred privilege no one wants: the privilege of suffering. In suffering, gray fades away. Only black and white remain. When searing pain penetrates a heart, a compassion builds therein. When once a person has known the searing pain of loss of any kind, it becomes impossible to pretend to be unable to recognize that same pain in the eyes of the people around you - no matter how that pain came about.

The God Man stepped right into our troubles with us many years ago. He alone lifted us out of the pain and the mire. The Word became life to us as we feasted upon its promises and truths and learned anew to trust Him for every breath, every new mercy, every dollar to make ends meet. Right in the middle of ordinary lives marred with the messes of this broken world, Jesus Christ made Himself known to us. He didn't wait for us to get it together. He didn't expect us to reach some bar set far too high for us. He knelt down and loved us right where we are and led us out of our darkness into light we could not find apart from Him. Nothing about who He revealed Himself to be in our healing contradicted His Word. Rather, His Spirit within us made it come screaming to life.

And, when we looked around, we couldn't find that kind of Jesus in the safe, sanitary bubble we had set up camp in so many years before. It was as if He wasn't allowed there and it made our heads spin. He was too scary, too dirty, too loud. He asked too much. He was too much. He walked in places far too dark. He sat elbow to elbow with folks who would never get in the door in the places were spending our time, raising our children.. He loved the unlovable and touched the untouchable, no matter what anybody in a suit said. This Jesus didn't have blue eyes and would never fit in a fairytale at all.

And yet? There was no happily ever apart from Him and there never would be. We know because we looked. Far and wide, we looked. We hoped. We prayed. We begged. To stay where we were and become all He intended us to be. To be who it was popular to be and to do all He made us to do. It was not to be. Every Sunday, it became a little clearer.

All the trips to the altar, all the hours with knees in the carpet, all the tears that flooded into my ears - none of it changed who Jesus of Nazareth truly is or how loudly He's calling to His children to LOVE like He loved. To go where He'd go - into the darkness where no light seems to show.

How? How were we going to sit in the light and judge those in the darkness? How could they know if we wouldn't go? How would we know if someone had not carried that light to us? How would we have ever climbed on our clean high horses if someone hadn't lifted us out of our muck in the first place? Had we forgotten? Had we copped out to fear so many times we'd convinced ourselves we were brave? Why were we living like cowards if that were true?

"Well, surely, if that family over there is okay with this, then we must be overreacting."

"Surely, if that leader thinks it's okay to respond that way, then we must be missing something."

"Surely, if that highly educated man says I'm wrong, then I must be. Maybe I don't know enough."

But this dumb sheep knows her Father's voice when she knows nothing else.

And then, there He would be. Again.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. you are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another."
- John 15:12-17

We all have a story. We all have a tale of a time when the richest person in the world couldn't put the pieces of our lives back together. We remember a day when the best friend in the world couldn't hold us tight enough. We've lived through a time when nothing and no one could breathe life back into what we were mourning. Christ alone.

We live in a time when He isn't truly known by many and if He is, He is often rejected or ignored. We don't know how to love like He loved anymore. Not when the very people who need His love the most have already been hurt in His name. So, we sit. We wait. We hide. We run. We preoccupy ourselves and our children with all the fun, all the comforts, all the distractions we need to tell ourselves we are doing enough. And while we do that? Where are they? What are they believing? What's becoming of the children who have no one to speak for them? What about their mamas who don't know another way? What about the daddies who are seeking their identities everywhere else?

We couldn't do it anymore. We couldn't sit there in our comfortable pews anymore.

If I listed all the things that have broken since we left our comfort zone, this blog would sound more like a bad country song. If I said we've never been afraid, I'd be the biggest hypocrite of all. If I said a single week has passed without the enemy trying to tell me I'm a fool for swimming upstream, I'd be lying to you. If anyone at our little church told you we have anything all figured out, that would be a ridiculous untruth, too.

But do you know what I have seen? Jesus.

Do you know what has become our reality? Seeing love like we only read about before.

Do you know what's happened? We've discovered the mission field we fell in love with across the ocean really is in our backyard, too.

Do you know what I learned in my tattered jeans in the ghetto that I never learned in my heels under the steeple? We're all the same.

Last June, I wrote I every day. This June, I just couldn't. Last June, I was finally sticking my toe into ministry and was so excited to talk about it. This June, I've been keeping my head above water in it for a year and it's left me speechless in so many ways.

But, as the days of June have gone by, I've grown more and more unsettled. It's time to admit I do have some things to say. And, maybe, in the days to come, I will.

But, for today, this is all I've got: Jesus.  Whatever it takes to love like He does today - do that.

You can trust Him. You can abide in His love.


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