reality.

blessed are the poor in spirit

the other night at the refuge a friend slipped me a vodka bottle and said, “here, i really wanted to drink it but i know it’ll just mess things up more.” i was so proud of her and promptly went to the bathroom and dumped it out (i am really good at throwing out all kinds of drugs & alcohol & porn & razor blades & weird-things-people-need-to-get-rid-of-to-stay-safe). i have some really funny stories of things i hope and prayed a policeman would never pull me over and somehow see or that i wouldn’t get caught getting rid of.  but i’ll do anything to get things that harm out of people’s hands.

but it struck me as i thought about it later just how real “reality” is.

how staying sober is not a once-and-for-all-decision but a daily, even hourly, one. 

how depression and it’s evil tug is always trying to pull so many under. 

how grief from divorce & death & job-losses & church pain & death of dreams can hurt so deeply.

how financial burdens are always looming forcing so many to live in fear & scarcity & have to make horridly difficult decisions. 

how self-hatred & the ravages of abuse leave so many scars that we can’t see on the outside.

how chronic pain & physical illnesses loom and rob hope.

how life-not-going-the-way-we-had-hoped can derail us. 

i understand we live in a genesis 3 world. that there is just no way around  the existence of brokenness, struggle and pain.  in my head, it’s all easy to make peace with as a big-theory-of-how-the-world-works.

but there was something about the tenderness and vulnerability about that moment that stirred my soul later. it felt like a thin place, a heaven-meets-earth-place, that weird beautiful God space that somehow supersedes words. even when i am saying it right now it doesn’t feel very clear but it somehow is.

we are all so freaking fragile.  we’re all so freaking strong. 

and we are all so freaking desperate in different ways–whether we’re saying that out loud or not, whether we’re men or women, whether we’re rich or poor.  we’re either desperate to be loved, to feel whole, to feel secure, to have purpose and meaning, to matter, to feel like we’re enough or if we live in some other contexts, we’re desperate to find food & shelter & some-form-of-security for our families.

most of all, we all need each other so freaking badly. my friend needed someone to slip that bottle to. it’s as simple as that. having no safety net, no family, we’re it for her. and my friends are it for me, too.  i am constantly reminded that without my dear friends, my Jesus-with-skin-ons, my faithful and true and honest and raw fellow-strugglers i am toast.

that’s reality.

and it’s also why i am not afraid to say i need a communal faith. honestly, without it, it’s all just a little too much. Jesus seems to understand this kind of human desperation, and i think that’s why he kept pointing everyone toward loving and serving each other because he knew it would heal us. over and over in the gospels i see “reality” and the hope of God’s tangible in-the-flesh touch in the midst.

that’s what makes reality bearable.  that’s what brings hope.  

hope that we’re not alone.  

that somehow, someway God is at work in the midst of the craziness. hope that we’re not alone. hope that who we are in our worst moment is not who we really are. hope that we’re not alone. hope that our reality isn’t just our reality but it’s shared by other strugglers who are brave enough to say the truth out loud, too. hope that we can seek help from God and other people and find it.   hope that we’re not alone. hope of the promise of emmanuel, God with us.

i know life is hard the other 11 months of the year for so many people, but there’s no question that this time of year can make it feel much trickier, too. the holidays often stir up so much reality. 

my deep hope for everyone struggling is that somehow, someway we’d feel less alone.  that heaven would somehow pierce down into earth and bring a sliver of light, of good, of peace, of joy, of gladness, of truth, of grace, or mercy, of compassion, of beauty.

and that whatever it looked like, it would be a tender balm to life’s realities, a reminder that you’re not alone. 

//

ps: today at sheloves magazine, i’ve got a “down we go” column up called when joy is elusive.

also, if you are new here (or struggling extra this season and might need a reminder), i’ve got a series of posts from last year called “when christmas is hard.”  they’re not for everyone. if you’re happy and doing well, maybe not so much. but if life’s realities are tricky and you need a sliver of light this holiday, you might want to check them out. tomorrow night we are hosting a blue christmas contemplative space at the refuge specifically for reality. i wish we could do it online!  peace and hope, kathy

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.

7 Comments

  • When you write about us being strong and fragile, I remember a doctor i know who has said that she is amazed at how someone can survive a car wreck that looks like it is impossible and yet someone else can have terrible complications simply from a fall.

    I think of the truth in paradoxes, strength in weakness, power in vulnerability, to have life, life must be lost etc.

    What you wrote about a “tender balm” was lovely.

    Perhaps there are times when we can be that to each other with such light, peace, truth, grace, compassion and beauty over this holiday season. Isn’t is a time of year where it can be the worst to be alone?

    It seems to me also that the spiritually poor of us are the often the ones which superficially look like they are doing OK. The financially rich, the “beautiful” the ones that appear to be powerful, strong etc. How many, long to be just held?

    Reply
  • Sometimes your posts are exactly what I need that day, and this is one of them. You “get” your friends who are on the margins religiously, financially and in lots of other ways. You are one of the few Christians I know who do.

    Having a community of Christians to walk with is something I never expect to see. Kay and I have chosen to stand with our friends, and very few of them are accepted by the Christian community. For many of our friends, we are their Christian community. Sure, the official position is that churches do stand with the homeless, LGBTs, addicts, those who live in poverty and those who have no voice and no power.

    We both know, however, that for most churches and most Christians, a lot of that is just window dressing. Maybe a check every now and then thrown into a safe offering plate, but touch our friends and love them? No way! You might catch cooties.

    Reply
  • Oooh I like this so much. It has been in owning my own desperation that the thin space has become holy for me. You guys are it for me, too, and this Christmas I am leaning into more of what I can give away from that place. From a place of security, from a place that reality is I am an orphan adopted in and the reality that I am needed and wanted far more than my desire to tank. #miracleshappen

    Reply
  • This is beautiful… I’m so thankful for you, and your way with words! There are days I really miss being part of a faith community, reading this makes today one of those days.

    Reply

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