becoming better human beings

learning to be better human beingsin the first few years of the refuge there were days when i really just wanted to throw in the towel.  i often wonder why in the $*!^$&!(!)# i care so much about all of this.  really.  in the big scheme of things we are a little blip in the universe, just a teeny weeny pocket of love that is trying to scrape by and do the best we can.  in the life of church-planting cycles, we are survivors.  we have survived what many communities haven’t been able to weather.  we have grown up over the past 5 years, not in numbers but in depth & width & in all kinds of ways that aren’t really measurable without kingdom-kinds-of-eyes.  but we’re still young in all kinds of ways because that’s how faith & life is.   if there was one thing i have learned in the past few years when i stopped always coming-to-the-edge-of-just throwing-in-the-towel,  it’s that this kind of living requires a long, long view.  it means weathering deep bumpy, rocky valleys in the road and having to climb big mountains without the best gear. it means letting go of needing everyone to understand and living in the tension of great disapproval.  it means trusting that God is at work even though we may never see it.  it means learning how to become less codependent and more free.  it means having to chant the serenity prayer every day over and over and over again.  it means holding on and hanging in and doing whatever we can do to remember that Jesus told us that this kind of life would be hard.  but despite its hazards, it is beautiful.

at the same time, it poses another honest question–why work this hard? seriously.   i know i have many friends who look in at what we’re doing and think it’s all a little nutty, how much we pour into this wild little community when we could take such an easier path.  why have we chosen a road that’s so freaking messy?

trust me, i ask that question all the time.  i imagine a nice office, an administrative assistant, making above the minimum wage, and being able to leave my work there instead of drag it home.  but i then i just laugh because that is so not me.  it never has been and it never will be.  and this is somehow the little blip i’m dedicated to.  that’s it.   it’s not for everyone, that is for sure.  but i am learning here what i don’t think i could learn if it were easier. i am not learning how to be a better speaker, a more efficient leader, a more effective manager, or a stronger fundraiser.  those things are not inherently bad, but they are much easier than learning how to be a healthier human being.

i feel like that’s what i’m learning through being part of this community.  how to be a healthier human being.

able to love and be loved.  able to withstand adversity and still cling to Hope.  able to hold on to what needs to be held on to and let of what’s not mine.  able to laugh and cry at the same time.  able to be mad at myself and kind to myself in the same breath.  able to feel & hurt and able to receive healing & help.   able to realize God is God and i’m human.  able to have limits and also possibilities.  able to fall down and slowly get back up.   able to survive conflict and not have it kill me.  able to be a friend & have friends.  able to rely on others & also rely on God.  able to trust.  able to recognize limitations & able to still dream.  able to give & able to receive. able to be vulnerable & allow myself to hurt.

i don’t think many churches teach this stuff. and i know why.  it doesn’t sell.  it’s not too inviting or comfortable.

but i think that’s what “church” should be about, really.

helping people become better human beings.

people of love, mercy, justice, hope, and healing.  people who are willing to learn and fail and try again.  people who focus on our own logs instead of others specks.  people who lay down stones. people who are brave and scared at the same time.  people who don’t give up but rely on God to sustain them through the twists and turns.  people who are humble and willing to do the hard stuff and celebrate the good stuff.  people willing to learn.

there are lots of different ways to learn it, it just so happens this is the particular Jesus school i happen to be enrolled in.

so that’s where i am at today.  grateful for my humanity and God’s divinity.  grateful for long-haul community.  grateful for the 12 steps.  grateful for the beatitudes.  grateful for my dear & faithful friends who are helping me become a better human being.

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

21 Comments

  • Kathy,
    Great honest open post.

    I am going through a little pity party of my own the last couple days, asking all of the questions you ask above. Desiring an office where I can sit and think is almost too much to bear some days…

    I wish I knew where the line was between the healthy practice of denying self and the dangerous realm of denying who God made me to be.

    Reply
    • oh, that line is a very fine line & sometimes so confusing. where is the easier smoother road is the question i’m always crying out. wish we lived closer, that’s for sure. meanwhile, lots of love and prayers in the midst of the muck and mire.

      Reply
  • Kathy, You hit the bulls eye with this post! You’re not drinking the funny KoolAid any more are you?

    I’ve been thinking about our conversation. Yes, people are where the Kingdom of God resides, but our community needs you to write and speak. People first, then writing and speaking. Not much of anyone is saying this stuff, probably because it doesn’t sell well and bring in the $$$.

    We’ve been visiting the homeless more as winter and the rains are starting. I plan to go down there again today or tomorrow morning with a friend to deliver some tarps (big rain supposedly coming). One person told me I’ll get arrested (like it’s illegal to talk to the homeless and share a few things), another thinks I’ll get assaulted, another thinks I’ll catch a disease. I need to go to one of those nice church buildings and sing some Jesus songs and listen to some sermons and get off the street! Duh!!!

    We don’t really buy into their value systems of pointy-steepled church buildings with offices for us to park our butts in, do we? That’s called hiding out!

    Reply
    • yeah, it doesn’t sell my friend, it doesn’t sell. but i will keep blogging my heart out and saying crazy stuff and connecting with amazing sojourners like you who are living out your faith in such beautiful ways and remind me of what can be. thank you.

      Reply
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if God were so simple that we could easily understand Him?
    Wait. I guess not. Then He wouldn’t be God.

    Reply
  • Sigh. Yeah, me too. Wishing today for a little security…a little scared. 🙂
    But I know that the security offered by the institution is an illusion, and really, like you suggested, it is not how I’m wired. I used to think – because of pressure from family and religion – that I needed to make myself be that – the office, the salary, etc…. but the truth is, I don’t know how to do that, never did. It does not seem to be the way I’m wired…. now, I just need to figure out how to survive another way…

    Reply
    • it is so scary, this different kind of security yet needing real needs to be met, too. the whole “this is how it needs to be done” system is so strong and powerful and sort of how the world works and yet what does that mean for people of faith and those who don’t fit into the system? one thing i know, though, is i do have a luxury in having jose who has a real job; i always want people to know that in my back pocket makes all of this easier and never want to dismiss that reality nor have people think i’m braver than i really am 🙂 i’m always sending lots of love across the hills…

      Reply
  • And we, my friend, are so grateful to know that you are there, doing what you do. For those of us who are not brave enough, not courageous enough, not loving enough.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • eva, oh, each of our “enoughs” look so different and i think the message that i hope for all of us is that somehow, some way we can settle in to “we are enough” no matter the context, the season. thanks for reading & for sharing & being here. you always add so much.

      Reply
  • Oh that whole “able” paragraph totally resonated with the depths of my heart. This was such a timely post, too, because man, does it get dark down here sometimes. And that is just the struggle in my *own* head! 😉 It is so worth it though, even in the not fabulous moments. But only because we have one another! That quote comes to mind about not how many number of friends you can count, but ones that you can count on. Man, I never learned this becoming a better human being stuff, in seminary or grad school. I learned (among some valuable stuff, too) how to dispense timely advice, how to make sure that *boundaries* were setfortheloveofgod, and how to be both warm and professionally distant at the same time. I thought I was set!

    Ahh, but the becoming a better human being is not what I bargained for at all.(Harumph)It is WAY harder than any freaking school assignment or project. I gain Hope that my close friends can look in my eyes, tell me they love me, and I can feel it in a way that I can honestly say I never have before. I gain Hope in believing that this path = a promising future, and a more free present.

    PS Skipped to the sorting out the good and the bad in that book. Ouchhh. *taking one for the becoming a healthy human being team*

    Reply
    • yeah, becoming better human beings isn’t taught in seminary 🙂 glad you skipped ahead in the book, too, but don’t forget to go back, ha ha.

      Reply
  • Kathy,

    I want to be just like you when I grow up. Seriously.

    Jacob’s transformation into “Israel” came from wrestling with God and left him limping. I find myself always wrestling and limping, but learning and growing somehow in the long run.

    Reply
    • trust me, my friend, you don’t :). but yeah, the wrestling & limping is somehow the part of learning and growing. and it definitely is painful, hard, and oh so beautiful!

      Reply
  • Last weekend I got together with a group of friends. We were in a fellowship together back in the early 80’s. That group was very much how your describe your fellowship. We were quite the mixed bad of people, including a bunch that would have been considered “misfits” and / or freaks by a lot of people. But we loved each other fiercely. We went through so much together, good and bad. There were nervous breakdowns, health crisis, deaths and births. It was a rare place where differences were celebrated not looked down on. Since then a new pastor killed the “church” off, but the family is still very much alive. We live in different places and have a lot of history individually since then, but we are still family. One of the women sighed and said she missed that time so much. I do too, but I know we carry part of that with us in each encounter we have now. It’s so worth it to take the risk of loving and being loved. It is messy and not safe. But I’m so thankful for all the people I have in my life that were the fruit of taking that risk. At the end of the day… it’s so much better than the cushy office. 🙂

    Reply
    • that is beautiful & a reminder that it all lingers somehow, that hard work and loving fiercely and going through hell together and staying in. and seasons change and winds shift but the love & passion & connection is so powerful. but “risk” is the word that it all requires and yes, so much better than a cushy office in the end! thanks for sharing & look forward to hearing what down we go is stirring up, too!

      Reply
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