* a few months ago chris chappotin asked a question to a few of us on twitter–”what’s missing from the missional conversation?” i’m not the best twitter-er, but i responded with the first thing that came to my mind: more real stories. he asked if i’d write a post about it for a missing in missional series and here it is. it’s kind of funny that both of these re-posts today have the word “missional” in them. i’ll still go with incarnational any day! also, if you think of me this weekend, send a little computer love my way. my mac hard drive crashed & i am hoping, praying, begging they’ll be able to recover it. i had been working on a few really big projects–with no backups for a while–so i’m really bummed!
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There is much being written about why missional living is important, the theology behind it, the reasons why we are compelled to be Christ’s hands and feet. This is awesome work and not to be dismissed because it is motivating people to get out of the pews and actually live the Bible instead of talk about the Bible.
At the same time, as someone who’s been living in the trenches for a chunk of years now, sometimes I wish I heard more real stories about what it’s really like down here. More honest stories about the cost. More raw stories about what it feels like to live in messy, incarnational relationships that are tiring, hard, and make us want to run for the hills.
I’d love to hear more stories that addressed:
The pain of incarnational living. How confusing it is when people who are already down and out and struggling to make it through the day get dealt brutal blow after brutal blow related to their health, finances, and circumstances. What it’s like to sit on the edge of our friend’s bed after being hospitalized yet again as they cry out “Kathy, why does God hate me so much?” What it feels like when our friends die, taking their own life or dying suddenly, leaving behind orphan children and we’re their only family. What the ravages of mental illness can do to beautiful children of God and how little tangible relief they get this side of heaven.
The frustration of incarnational living. How hard it is when we know the resources exist in our local community, but they are being channeled to church building campaigns and pastors’ big salaries. How we don’t even need money, we just need other brothers and sisters in Christ willing to be advocates and friends and journey alongside hurting people but they’d rather not get their hands too dirty. How some days you wonder if it really matters, all the time and energy and love being invested in change.
The cost of incarnational living. How some friends wish we could be more normal and not care so passionately about the ways of love. How much money and security we lose when we choose this path. How our families and children are affected by all this pain so up close and personal. How much it hurts when we love deeply and freely and then people just walk away from us without so much as a thank you.
These stories need to be told more freely, more honestly. I don’t think we hear enough of them. They are not a sign of our lack of faith or calling or mission. They are not something to be ashamed of or hidden. They are about real life down here in the muck and mire and beauty and glory of incarnational living. These kinds of stories would help a lot of us feel less alone, less crazy, less doubting-it-is-all-worth-it. These kinds of stories would help sustain and encourage us because they are the kind we can relate to.
But alongside these hard stories, I’d also love to hear more stories that flesh out and honor the beauty and hope of incarnational living.
Stories about what it feels like when we see God’s image restored in our friends, when heads are held higher and shame loses its power.
How glorious it is when broken marriages are reconciled and families are strengthened.
The beauty of men and women finding their voices for the first time in their lives and advocating for themselves.
The hope that comes when faith is renewed or people begin to believe that maybe God really does love them.
What it feels like when a woman leaves an abusive relationship and chooses life and freedom for her family.
When hope begins to be more present than despair.
When needs get met in community without anyone having to ask.
How having a safe space to tell our real story can heal broken hearts right before our very eyes.
How it is all worth it when we see friends shift from selfishness to serving others, too.
There is so much freaking beauty down here. I have days where my breath is taken away, where I witness miracles right before my very eyes (I have developed completely a new definition of miracles in these past few years and now I see a lot more of them!)
Where there’s no place I’d rather be.
When I believe in Jesus like I’ve never believed before.
Where I am overwhelmed with gratitude and hope.
Stories remind us we’re not alone. Stories remind us God is working despite the costs. Stories remind us that this is what following Jesus really looks like, feels like, is.
Yeah, I think the Missional conversation needs more stories like these.