I want to speak from a very vulnerable place. It is a place of my failure. It is a place of my shame. It is the place of my fear. I am not sure if many who are looked at as spiritual leaders would open themselves up enough to share the times when they have really fallen short, especially when the circumstances may cause others to doubt their spiritual capacity. But I believe (and hope) that despite my misgivings that we as Christians might learn from my shortcomings.
I have believed for a long time, and have previously spoken and written, that since many people in our cities, towns, and communities have written off and quit coming into our church buildings…we must be the people to go to them. I have encouraged people at my church to walk the streets, talk to people, and pray with them. The hurt, pain, and heartache in people’s lives is real and if we are not going to them…they very well may stay in those places.
We have to be the people who no longer hide within the confines of our safe church buildings. We have to be the people who no longer stay only within our safe group of “Christian friends.” We must begin moving outward and onward into the neighborhoods, onto the porches, within the homes, and into the lives of people who have no interest in “church,” but who have great spiritual and physical needs.
While it is true that I have moved light-years from the Christian isolation that I used to live in, I realized this week that I am still light-years away from being the man that God wants me to be. I have taken steps over the last five years of walking into the muck and mire of people’s lives…but it has mostly been on my terms and in predictable situations. And while I might be very good at painting a picture of the necessity of Christian mission…I had somehow convinced myself that my responsibility is to teach and call others into it without really having to go all the way in it myself. Pretty pathetic.
This reality hit me right between the eyes as I walked by myself through the downtown streets of Columbus talking to people who were walking outside and hanging out on their porches about the 72 hour prayer event for drug addicts that we were hosting. I talked to a ton of people, heard a ton of stories, and shared with them what we were doing. But man…when it came to asking people if they had anything I could pray with them about… I was afraid to ask. I WAS AFRAID!
Was I afraid they might laugh? Was I afraid they might think less of me? Was I afraid I might get beat up? What in the world was I afraid of? The truth is that I was afraid that they might perceive me as a salesman or as having some sort of an agenda…even though neither of those are true of me. Many times I would ask them if they had anything I could pray for and before they even had a chance to respond…I was back-pedaling.
As I continued to walk the neighborhoods my friend joined me. I caught him up on what I had been doing. It wasn’t long until we came upon two young adults hanging out on their porch. I explained to them that we would be hosting a prayer event for addicts and they both took the information. My friend asked them if they needed prayer for anything and I began to get nervous. I felt like such a fool when the young lady started to tear up and tell us about how she lost her parents and how she has had a rough few months. My friend began to pray with her and I felt the peace of God all around us. I knew this was exactly right…this is the place I needed to be.
I learned a great lesson that day and I learned a lot about myself and the person I am becoming. It is true that there are people all around us who are hungry and desperate for life, wholeness, meaning, and purpose…and for someone to just listen to them and pray with them, but I (we) have to have the courage to take steps out of our places of comfort so that God can work through us to meet the people of this world in their places of pain. It is easy to pray for people in our safe “Christian” places…but we have to go and pray for people in not so “Christian” places.
asking for forgiveness…