“Deep down, I often want all the beauty and none of the hazards.”
One of the hardest things about life in the trenches with people is how tiring it can sometimes be. No matter how good our boundaries are, no matter how many ways we try and take good care of our souls, no matter how realistic we are about our limitations, so much real life is just hard.
Factor in kids, money stresses, our own real pain and struggles and it’s even harder. I can’t tell you the number of days I wake up in the morning and begin to plan my exit strategy out of this downward path.
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” – Luke 10:23
A few years ago, on a particularly difficult week, I got a text message from a dear friend and brother from The Refuge. He knew I was blue and sent a text of encouragement, reminding me that the work we are doing on this downward path is not stupid, but rather it is “beautiful and hazardous.”
These two words resonated deeply. Daily, I see incredible beauty in the weirdest, darkest, strangest places. I see the good news of the gospel in living color. I see hope emerge from hopelessness. I see voices used that were once silenced. I see dignity restored. I see the cycle of addiction broken. I see the unloved learn to love and be loved.
Unfortunately, I often also get to see up close and personal how guided I still am by worldly (and sometimes religious) thinking. Deep down, I often want all the beauty and none of the hazards. I want to live in the low places but I don’t want to let go of the things that keep me from getting there. I want to do hard things during the day but have my comforts at night. I want smooth sailing in the middle of a wild and unpredictable ocean. I want to have my cake and eat it, too.
I chose this downwardly mobile life. I chose to leave the old and embrace the new. No one forced me. I am a willing, though sometimes reluctant, participant in this glorious mess. Sometimes I need to be reminded that despite its beauty it is, indeed, hazardous.
Kingdom living is hazardous.
Giving up the predictable confines of “church where you get to just sit and listen” is hazardous. Intersecting with people’s real and painful stories is hazardous. Mixing with people who believe completely different things from us is hazardous. Living honestly is hazardous. Letting others love us is hazardous. The gospel is dangerous, scary, wild, hazardous.
But if we only focus on the hazards and forget about the beauty and our need for rest, we will become too tired and overwhelmed.
We will begin to resent other people and even God. We will burn out.
And burnout was never the idea. Many of us need to heed this advice from Galatians 6:9–“Do not become weary in doing good.”
My guess is that so many of us reading are Type A, driven, perfectionistic personalities (oh, please tell me I’m not the only one!) In our DNA is a deep desire to do things right, to “succeed” in whatever endeavors we tackle and to figure out a way to make things work.
In so many contexts, our often-unconscious strategies might be successful. But in the end–and especially when we’re talking about life in the trenches advocating for love, justice and healing–our hard-driving tendencies will also kill our souls, our bodies, our relationships and choke off the kind of life Jesus speaks of being possible.
Working our fingers to the bone was not the idea. Saving the world single-handedly was not the idea. Creating awesome programs that can’t realistically be sustained was not the idea. Only giving and never receiving was not the idea.
The big idea in the Kingdom of God is our willingness to engage in the “hazardous duty” of loving others as best we can as flawed human beings.
Human beings with limitations. Human beings who need to sleep, play, laugh and cry. Human beings who sometimes need to scream and shake our fists, crying out “Why can’t all of this be easier?”
I’m more convinced than ever that it’s just never going to be easier. In fact, Jesus promised it was never supposed to be. But what it can be, is more beautiful, more restful.
We can strain to see beauty in the ugly. We can notice small changes in others’ lives, in our own lives, and honor them as evidence of God-at-work. We can celebrate the good, even though the bad still exists.
And we can bravely take our hands off trying to control what can’t be controlled and rest. Rest in knowing God’s ways and the world’s ways are two different things. Rest in the reality that we live in a broken world and this side of heaven some things will never be what we had hoped. Rest in the honesty of our limitations. Rest in the comfort of God’s unfailing love.
I keep learning that to sustain life down here, we must be more honest about the hazards, develop eyes to see the beauty and be brave enough to rest.
Dear SheLoves friends:
- Have you ever thought of living out the Gospel as beautiful and hazardous?
- Do you think pursuing rest is brave?
- Where can you see beauty in the ugly today?
- Any other thoughts or comments?
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 www.kathyescobar.com and recently released her 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: Compassion, by Adriel Socrates