Do you often notice that when something is going wrong for you, no one seems to care that much? When you break up with one you loved, or you lose a close friend, or you start to doubt your entire life's purpose. When you are hurting, does it feel like everyone tip-toes over the topic? When you don't have the strength to reach out for help, does it seem that noone will reach to you instead?
Lately I've heard countless stories about people being shunned by those they thought they could rely on, just because they were slightly different and they didn't 'belong' anymore. Because they were hurting and it was just too difficult to deal with them. People who had broken hearts, people who'd lost loved ones, people who were questioning their fundamental beliefs. I remember, when I was about 18, I struggled in my church for this very reason. Having fallen completely and utterly in love with Jesus, I was awakened to the fact that I was broken just like all of humanity. I was striving to reach out to other people within this new revelation, yet they were all so focused on being 'good Christians' that I just felt looked down upon. Judged. Condemned for the fact that I was different. A 'hippie,' 'radical'...I didn't belong in their clique, because I was too messy for them. Jesus had ruined me for the world in the most beautiful sense, yet the very people I thought were my family in Christ in fact pushed me away without even realising it.
I think we avoid other peoples mess because we don't want to admit that we ourselves are a mess. When we turn to someone, face to face, and see the brokenness in their eyes, we fear that they can then see the brokenness behind ours. Jon Foreman sung it; "I can see the river running through your eyes." That river of brokenness is too hard for us to deal with, so we turn, in self-preservation, in selfishness and fear, alienating our brother or sister with their pain just so that we don't have to admit to our own. Whether it is in our empty words, or our lack thereof. In our ready judgement, or our hesitation to love. We avoid, and they slide further in to isolation.
The truth is, we are all messy. We all have our crap to carry around. We are all broken, and have been for our whole lives. And our only chance of redemption is true love. Jesus knew this when He picked up an adulteress off the ground, and gently set her free. When He befriended a Samaritan woman, a social outcast, and quiet honestly told her that her life messy, but she was a child of God and still had hope. When He looked upon Peter, and challenged him; "Do you love me?" And when He later said to Peter "Feed my sheep. Look after my sheep."
What does this mean? It means reaching out to the lost. Loving the broken. Listening to the hurting. Healing the pain. But to do this, we need to be prepared to face our own brokenness. Because we cannot reach out to others who are broken whilst pretending to be whole and perfect. Can a rose convince a weed of its beauty? Instead, we need to look to the definition of whanau, family, church; "And they devoted themselves to ... teaching and fellowship ... awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common..." (Acts 2:42-47, ESV).
All were together, and had all things in common. How beautiful that would be. And how impossible it seems in a world so reliant upon individualism and capitalism. Yet God offers us another option - humility, generosity, love. And when we have been humbled, blessed and loved, then we are able to sit at the table with one another as equals under His gaze, to share our stories with no shame nor isolation, but instead with grace and with our family. Is that so utopian? I wish it was not. Yet, days go by and no one asks the girl with the bruises whether she is alright. The boy with the broken heart whether he would like to talk. The woman with no hope nor faith whether she would like to share a meal. Because we are all to scared to face the truth. The very same truth that sets us free...
"He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9)