Down We Go: Beautiful, Hazardous

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“Deep down, I often want all the beauty and none of the hazards.” 

By Kathy Escobar | Twitter: @kathyescobar

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.”

Beautiful. 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?

________________________

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 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

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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 shelovesmagazine.com–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 idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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Idelette McVicker
  • Kathy, so good to hear your voice again! Hope you got rest in July… and took in much beauty. I agree that it is the beauty that tempers the frustration, that provides the bigger context for what we are doing in this hazardous Gospel-directed life. I so connect with the line: ‘I want to do hard things during the day but have my comforts at night.’ Especially in Burundi, this can be true.

    I think we do need rest – otherwise our eyes are too tired to see the beauty or too out-of-focus to recognize it at all. I am one of those people who fights for my rest, because I’ve learned over the years how fiercely I need it!

    Lovely to be in conversation with you again, Kathy, thanks for adding your voice and wisdom to SheLoves!

  • Randi Riggs

    “And we can bravely take our hands off trying to control what can’t be controlled and rest.” I love your use of the word brave because this is often so hard to do.

  • I totally agree that it takes bravery to prioritize rest, especially these days. We’re told by all the prevailing “wisdom” that we need to be busy busy busy, and so do our kids, to achieve what they define as success. I have to block my ears of all of that and remind myself what Jesus said to do, and how He wants us to go about it. And rest is a huge piece of that. Thank you, Kathy — I haven’t done this very well. I needed this reminder.

  • Great post Kathy!! Beautiful, hazardous. So true.

    Loved this part:

    Living honestly is hazardous. Letting others love us is hazardous. The gospel is dangerous, scary, wild, hazardous.

    i am so gonna quote that!

  • “Brave enough to rest.” Why is that so counter-intuitive?
    REST, God said.Sure, I replied. It’s about time.I’m tired, fed up and you’ve got it under control.BE QUIET, REST, God said.As soon as I finish the REST of what I need to do, God.STOP, REST. IT’S DONE, God said.Sure, God, but I must REST-less than others do, I can’t be out-done!I SAID, REST. God said.But what about the REST of my day?I’ll prop up my feet while the REST of me works, OK?What about the REST of my work?The REST of what is expected of me?What will the REST of the world think?THE REST OF THE WORLD CAN WAIT.THE REST OF IT ISN’T IMPORTANT.THE REST OF THE WORLD DOESN’T LOVE YOU LIKE I DO.STOP. HUSH. REST.Remain hereExistStopTrying

  • It is easier to talk about living a bountiful life, but without thinking many pay the price of burning out while acting it. This is a good reminder that shows again, without His partnership we can’t do anything Good. Now, i will try to rest in Him.

  • fiona lynne

    There’s a balance you capture in this that is so hard for me to find in real life – on the one hand there’s the need to be willing to confront the hazardous, to leave the comfort that keeps us getting there, and on the other, the danger of beginning to think it’s all up to me me me, and then burning out. You’ve given me lots to think about today…

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