Down We Go: Practicing the Wild Ways of Jesus


On Downward Mobility as a Lifestyle

By Kathy Escobar | Twitter: @kathyescobar

There are some days I wake up and wonder, “How in the world did I end up here?”

When I was in college, I pictured myself in my 40’s having a successful thriving career with a hefty paycheck and an administrative assistant, a couple of kids and a fairly cushy life.  Somehow I ended up with five kids (ages 19 down to twins who are 11), a job pastoring a little wild faith community making far less than minimum wage, and week-after-week filled with painful but beautiful stories of people on the journey toward change.

It’s not cushy.  It’s not comfortable. It’s not what I expected.

But it is so good.

I was not raised in a Christian home, but I always was drawn toward Jesus. Parented by a single mom struggling to take good care of her babies, I remember reading the Bible as a young girl and feeling so connected to Jesus, even though no one had taught me anything about him. Through some twists and turns, I ended up beginning to follow him more actively, but what I initially followed him into was “the church”, not necessarily the places he hung out at in the gospel stories I loved.

Linear, Not

The church for me was where I learned about rules, do’s and don’ts, and how to fit in.  It also was the place where I learned what I call a “theology of ascent”.  To me, ascent worked well with my ideas of upward mobility and success. It was a ladder-like living where each day was a step closer to God and away from pain and struggle.  My own life didn’t seem to be so linear, so simple, and the life of many of my friends—when they had a chance to be honest—didn’t seem that way, either.  But it seemed like most everyone around me was buying into that idea; so I just followed along.

I felt really guilty that somehow I wasn’t “progressing” fast enough.  Even though I was attending a lot of Bible studies, praying harder, and trying harder, I never felt free.

Slowly, I began to see that Jesus doesn’t call us to a life of ascent–where we move further and further away from the things of this world–or toward a life of comfort, predictability or self-protection.

Jesus always moved toward pain, toward the margins, toward those seeking help and hope.


As I began to embrace my own story more honestly, things began to shift. I stopped trying to appear more put-together than I was, more spiritual than I was, more happy than I was. I began to be more honest. It freaked people out. It freaked me out.  But it didn’t freak God out. I think Jesus was like “Oh, finally, here’s the real Kathy!”

It was the beginning of a path of descent, where I softened my heart instead of protecting it and began to let God–and others–in to my real life, not my guarded, good-Christian one.

Through this journey I began to learn how Jesus calls us to a life of descent, of downward mobility, where we move down into the trenches of real life, real pain, real hope in our own lives and in the lives of others. Where we begin to see what we couldn’t see before, and our passion for freedom, justice, love, and mercy is ignited.

Way of the Heart

To me, downward mobility is a matter of the heart, not financial resources. It is losing our lives, instead of protecting them. Giving away our hearts, instead of insulating them. Intersecting with pain instead of numbing it out. Entering into relationship with people different from us, instead of staying comfortably separated. Learning, instead of teaching. Practicing, instead of theorizing.

I think Jesus embodied downward mobility and calls us to the same.

There are so many days when I want to jump off this downward path and scramble back up to the top. When ascent seems like a much better proposition.  Where I want to put all my honesty back into Pandora’s box and put the lid back on it. Where I want to talk about the weather instead of pain and fear. But the reality is that I wouldn’t trade this journey down for anything.

It’s the place I keep learning things that need learning. About who I really am. Who God really is. And what it means to love others–and be loved, too.

I am so glad to be part of SheLoves Magazine, and the wonderful team here dedicated to living out our faith and life in all kinds of beautiful, diverse ways.  In the months together I’ll be sharing more about a life of downward mobility and what it might look like for us to practice the wild ways of Jesus together–not in theory, but in real life.


  • How are you drawn to the idea of downward mobility?
  • What scares you about it?

About Kathy:

Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at and just released a new book called, Down We Go–Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids.

Image credit: Girl under flowers, by Sharon D. Pruitt

Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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  1. I live for this style of downward mobility. My husband and I gave up our home, care and all our belongings to serve God in Bolivia with no fixed income just the occasional donation and it was the best thing we ever did. We spent 7 years living in marginal communities without basic services like water and gas etc. The people loved us because we shared in their struggles. We adopted two little girls and our church rejected us so now my husband is back in secular work (he had to return to our country to find work) and I am still here waiting to join him (once my foster baby goes to his forever family) – we intend to continue the downward lifestyle. My husband rents a house in an area populated by immigrants and not by General Managers and already his factory staff have seen him there and are impressed that he isn’t in an exclusive community. We are in limbo waiting to see what God has in store for us next and trusting we can return here once we have adopted more kids and saved up money to be able to start some kind of business to pay the bills while we continue to reach people for Christ in simplicity.
    The simple church we started in the poor community was the most real we have ever felt with fellow Christians. Very few understand that it is not about ‘having everything’ as the prosperity has tricked many people.

  2. Very well said. As a young pastor I read an article by Henri J. M. Nouwen who spoke of the downward way of Christ and it changed my perspective on life and what it really means to be “in ministry” following the example of Jesus. ( For more see: The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life (9781570757020): Henri J. M. Nouwen, Vincent Van Gogh: Books.) Sadly, this attitude is in short supply even within the church. Your personal story and crystal clear message has lifted my own spirit today. Thanks for practicing the wild ways of Jesus!

  3. something about this reminds me of eugene peterson’s a long obedience in the same direction. it’s about the psalms of ascent and community and a life opposite what you describe first learning at church. it’s a crazy, upside down Kingdom, isn’t it, that in humility, service, and love we find the things our grasping hands can never reach?

    • suzannah, what a beautiful line: “…in humility, service, and love we find the things our grasping hands can never reach?” oh the things my hands have grasped at. it made me think of how such a big piece of this downward path requires letting go…thanks for sharing!

  4. I so love this whole lifestyle you are giving expression too … The fact that you are speaking from your own story, makes it reverberate with such authenticity. I am so thankful that you are leading us down into these wild ways … Thank you, Kathy! xoxo

    • thank you idelette, for your heart and passion for hope and change. i am so glad to be part of sheloves in this way. it’s a privilege and i look forward to learning from others and hearing what God is stirring up!

  5. Evaline Njoki Lesinko Njoki says:

    This is beautiful Kathy! I can relate to this statement: … “As I began to embrace my own story more honestly, things began to shift. I stopped trying to appear more put-together than I was, more spiritual than I was, more happy than I was. I began to be more honest. It freaked people out. It freaked me out. But it didn’t freak God out. I think Jesus was like “Oh, finally, here’s the real Njoki”… beautifully written! God bless you!


  1. […] the older I get—and the more I travel a path of descent, not ascent—the more clear it becomes that playing it safe is not the way of […]

  2. […] down we go: practicing the wild ways of Jesus – july 2011 […]

  3. […] i’m really excited to be part of sheloves magazine with a monthly piece on downward mobility in the sheloves God column.  here’s the first post: down we go: practicing the wild ways of Jesus. […]

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