Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Beautiful Mess

Unemployment affords a lot of amazing luxuries that sometimes go unnoticed or unspoken.  Oh sure, there are the random freak out moments when you wonder how you are going to support your growing family, but if you can figure out how to ignore those when they pop up every 5 minutes or so, you can bask in the benefits.  For example, an amazing vacation package (as long as you don’t spend money on the vacations)!  Time with my beautiful family.  And I’m never plagued with the thought, “When am I going to find time to go to the grocery store?  Or read that book?”  It is so relaxing.  And numbing.

One of the benefits of the last few months, which I didn’t really see coming, was a fresh perspective of the greater scope of what God is doing.  I have been a networking fiend since I have arrived in Denver.  I follow up any lead, and some of the most energizing conversations have been 4 connections away from my original friend.  Within all of this, I have met some amazing people who are doing incredible Kingdom work, whether it is 5 minutes away or over an hour.

When working at a church, it is too easy to put 100% of your focus on what God is doing within your own community.  There are so many needs and demands, and if you can’t even answer the clamoring in front of you, how can you focus on other things throughout the city?  Most of the time, this is not the intention.  It is just the inevitable outcome of a busy and thriving church.

Yet so many pastors in Denver have been willing to meet up with some random, unemployed pastor merely due to a mutual connection.  And a lot of them have genuinely cared to help me find what God has for me in this next season.  I have also come across networks of pastors that work together in the same area, and their heart for the city is invigorating.  I’m not saying that didn’t exist in San Diego, but I just know I was not one of them. 

I have been blessed to have the space to just attend churches, and grab coffee with different practitioners, and just observe what God is doing.  Where is He working?  What are the needs?  Where may I fit into what God is unfolding in the city?  Wherever I end up, I’m really encouraged that I feel like I’ll have many friends on the journey with me, across denominations and communities. 

I have also seen the beautiful mess of God’s overwhelming diversity.  I used to be quite judgmental of all the different denominations and expressions of church, thinking that pride pushed us so far from the unity God desired.  But I remember a statement from Dr. Jim Smith in seminary that stated that God is too big and magnificent to ever be captured in one church community.  All of our churches together can give a fuller expression of our amazing God than any one church operating in a silo.  People connect to different expressions, and even churches that may bore me to tears, or push my weirdo button, or disagree with my personal perfected understanding of God, are a needed part of the larger movement.  That doesn’t mean that pride is not limiting unity, but it is not the only force at work.

I have attempted to find metaphors that can give a remotely blurry picture of the process I’m going through as many friends and family check in with my journey.  The one I have been using lately is the feeling like I’m on one of those detective shows where I put all the information I have up on the board/wall as I try to solve a murder.  There are pictures, scribblings, and assembled evidence, all connected by a confusing and creepy web of lines.  In my case, I’m collecting bits from every conversation I have, as well as times of prayer and reflection, to somehow figure out what God has for me in this next season.  Which can sometimes feel like I’m slowly being murdered, instead of uncovering the shocking ending.  Themes are emerging to unveil my deeper passions and the burdens I feel called to put my time towards.  Yet I’m still figuring out where to put my time this week, this month, and this next season. 

One of my hopes as I move forward is that regardless of where I end up, I hope to maintain this renewed Kingdom perspective.  Where I can somehow help the church at large connect in meaningful ways to the community around me, and to celebrate the beautiful diversity of God’s people.  I truly believe that the way God’s people interact with each other, with a deep sense of family, will have a greater impact on our city than any program or initiative we come up with. 

And yet I’m quite certain that I will continue to internally judge any church or individual that does not do things exactly as I would, since I’m passionate about how Jesus is perceived, and I’m still in process with my baggage and pride.  But God has really worked on my heart to pray and support mega-churches, as well as house churches, as I aim to find something in the middle.  To respect the churches that emphasize truth, as well as those that embody grace, as I wrestle with how to express them together.  I want to see Jesus thrive, not just a particular ministry.

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