She practically shuddered with a hand over her heart. “You took your baby…to Africa?” she asked my friend Ginger, and we laughed.
“Yeah,” Ginger smiled. “It was fine, and our kids were able to experience so much of the culture. We can’t wait to take them back again.”
I think of that moment every now and then, when I realized that comfort is a very, well, comfortable thing. It’s difficult to step out of that comfort, to walk knowingly into uncertain situations even when we are doing so in order to spread Jesus’ love.
Being uncomfortable is hard. Moving into the mess is difficult. But that is right where God wants us.
I’m finishing up the book Move Toward the Mess by John Hambrick, who is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church, within North Point Ministries. (Scroll down – I’m giving away a copy today!) What John has found is that too many of us are too comfortable… too isolated… too bored within our faith. But “if you’re bored,” he writes, “don’t waste another minute. If your church service feels like a failed pep rally that never leads to the actual game, then it’s time for you to follow Jesus onto the field where the opposition is real and the stakes are extraordinary.”
I’ve been contemplating this a lot when it comes to my family. I’ve been asking myself not only what am I helping my kids to learn about the Lord, but also what am I showing them about what it means to give of ourselves, to love others the way Jesus loves us? Because doing this, truly doing this, usually means stepping outside of ourselves, outside of the areas that bring us comfort.
When we first got the opportunity to serve at a local winter homeless shelter, we didn’t hesitate to sign Connor up too. He was 5 at the time, and he was assigned the job of handing out little packs of snacks and water after the individuals came through the dinner line. There is a lot of mess among that group. We’ve heard some interesting things, and we’ve seen a fight or two break out. But it’s a real chance to be a part of Jesus’ love, and I feel like I’m looking at the face of God as I hand out bottled waters and say hello and smile.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there’s nothing heroic about showing up once a month for a single dinner. But it’s a start, and the first step in moving into a life of less talk and more action does begin with showing up. I know we have a lot more to learn, a lot more to give, and much, much more love to offer. And reading Move Toward the Mess has deepened my resolve and heightened my reflection for how our family can meaningfully live this out.
One of my favorite points in Move Toward the Mess was an analogy John used to describe what is happening in churches across the country. He likened Christianity to a sporting event, with the locker room strategy, followed by the big highlight: the game. But today, he pointed out, we’ve busied ourselves with talking strategy in the locker room so much that we’ve been abandoning the game.
“…What if the team didn’t show up on the field? When we Christians start to confuse the locker room with the game, things get boring…We talk about love and generosity and grace. Those things come alive and get exciting when they’re running loose in the world. But if we only ever talk about those things in church, and never practice them outside the church, things get stale. It might be more comfortable inside the walls of the church, but excitement is found where Jesus is at work – out in the world.”