clearing the rubble


we all blossom in the presence of one who sees the good in us and who can coax the best out of us”

–desmond tutu

 * * * * *

yes, there’s no doubt in my mind, we live in a genesis 3 world.   created in God’s image in genesis 1, things went awry for adam & eve, and here we are, God’s children, generation upon generation later, struggling to make sense of our humanness, God’s God-ness, with shame & pride & control & doubt & hiding & all kinds of wacky things messing with our heads, our lives.   the reason why this is so clearly on my heart today is that the past 4 days or so have been filled with people and more people.  and where there’s people, there’s a glorious mess and yet another reminder that the human struggle to believe we are good, that God is good, feels pretty universal. 



we had our 3rd annual refuge camping trip this past weekend (more on that in a few days, whoa, it was lovely & fun & filled with the typical and wonderful refuge riff-raff). we came home to two days with a friend from australia, sheena ryan, who has the gift of prophesy and offered some words of encouragement for our community.   she is connected to some dear friends on the refuge team who are constantly reminding us that God is big, like really big, and to not let our weird spiritual baggage & american christian experiences limit God’s spirit.  one of the things i love about the refuge is the diversity of christian theology & past spiritual experiences & ways of living out our faith all under one roof.  when sheena visited us at the end of 2006 i was being my typical skeptical self and felt very protective of my friends who had experienced God woundedness over the years and didn’t want anyone messing with their journey.  of course, i was utterly wrong and the time she spent with us was healing and beautiful and God truly spoke not only to me but to many others, too.  now, almost 2 years later, she was back in the states to share and encourage.  i admit that, again, i got a little worried.  safety at the refuge is a really high value and i know how fragile some of my friends are in their faith but i drew on the reality of last time–this was a kind and gentle and simple woman with no agenda, no power to gain, absolutely no benefit that i can think of other than knowing that she made herself available to people in need of God’s touch (i am always faced with what a jerk i can be about God stuff that i am not as comfortable with or used to. yes, God, i get it. i so easily forget how big you really are!).

we’ve been talking this month about the beauty & mystery of the trinity (you can read more about it at the refuge blog here and here) and the timing couldn’t have been better since this was the week focused on the holy spirit.  so out on the patio this past sunday evening, the breeze blowing through, we laughed & sang together and listened to sheena speak for a short time about prayer.  then in a humble & gentle way she prayed publicly for those that came forward. the most lovely part was that as a community, we got to hear out loud what God was saying through her to each other.  because i know pieces of almost every person’s story at the refuge, i was a tad bit overwhelmed at just how accurate & specific these words of encouragement were for each person.  friend after friend after friend receiving kernels of truth & hope into their lives.  when she got to me, well, the tears sprang forth & i tried to just receive (i’m not the best at that).  i can’t recreate the moment but i will just say that i was reminded that this crazy battle i am in, fighting for a theology of brokenness & equality to pervade the church, is worth it despite my insecurities & fears. 

we spent a little more time with sheena yesterday and it was good for my soul, the place i am at on the journey.  i am at a point in my life where i am no longer addicted to spiritual highs or caught up in demanding something from God the way i need it, the way i want it.  but i was reminded that God is always trying to speak to us as his babies, his children, so that we will know the truth about who we really are.  that he hasn’t forgotten us.  that he wants to reveal himself in weird and mysterious ways to help us on the journey.  i think the big bottom line is that God wants to clear some of the rubble that’s been created over the years so that the essence of who we are, the image of God in us, will be more clearly reflected and others can then see the image of God in themselves, too. i believe wholeheartedly that he doesn’t want us to stay stuck, to let the rubble keep us paralyzed from living. 

i get so angry at the rocks and obstacles and weights and barriers that have been placed into our way.  things we’ve done, things done to us, spiritual & emotional damage, messages and lies we’ve taken into the deepest places of our heart and we can’t seem to shake, a core belief that we’re really unlovable & unworthy of good things.  as a parent, it is the absolute last thing i would want my kids to be stuck with.  these rocks cut across money & education & geography & race & spiritual experiences and tend to be part of every person’s human experience to some degree or another.  the sick, the marginalized, the outcasts, the desperate were drawn to Jesus. in weird and bizarre ways, he called out the good that was buried underneath.  and as Christ-followers we are told to follow his example. 

there’s no doubt in my mind, we can’t clear the rocks by ourselves.  they are just too damn heavy.  sometimes we need two or three of us on our hands and knees pushing with all our strength, not giving up, even though it feels like any minute the rock will just roll right back to where it was before.  sometimes we need a random person to speak some words of encouragement & hope into us from out of the blue.  sometimes we just need someone to listen to the carnival in our head and remind us that it’s time to get off the ride, if even for a few minutes. sometimes we need prayer. sometimes we need laughter. sometimes we need a kick in the tail from a faithful friend.  any clearing we can get, we must take.  a pebble at a time, a rock at a time, a boulder at a time.  clearing the rubble so that the beauty and dignity and value of people can be discovered, our goodness-because-we-are-made-in-God’s-image revealed.   

that’s really what happened here the past few days.  a little bit of rubble got cleared so good could be exposed & what was already there can be released, even if in just a small and simple way.  i love what karl, my friend & teammate at the refuge, said at the end of our evening together:  “this is not extraordinary. it feels extraordinary because we are not used to it in such a powerful dose, but this kind of calling out the good in each other’s lives should be an ordinary part of our life in community together.” 

i have a feeling we just need a little reminder now and then that we are more equipped than we think to heal, to gently love, to clear some rubble, to call out the good.  and i believe our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, the world, are crying out for people willing to look beyond the rubble, see the good, the beauty buried down deep, and stay in relationship with them to coax it out…


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Hi Kathy,
    I’ve just discovered your blog a few days ago, and have been encouraged by what God is doing in your life and the lives of others around you (or in your community). Thank you! The only thing that I can’t quite wrap my head around, if it’s ok to be honest, is the fact that your saying there’s good in us. Its my understanding that on our own we cannot do good, essentially we are selfish in our nature, that’s what sin is. However, as we walk with God and the more we grow to know and understand Him, we begin to change and become like Him who created us. What is the point of being made new if essentially we are all good inside. * I swear I’m not attacking you, I’m asking. I’ve had my share of random people commenting on my blog and using my post as an example to show me how dumb I am. That’s not the case here, I’m simply asking an honest question and hoping to dialogue with you about this. * My husband and I have been on a journey of our own, meeting others who are attempting to follow Jesus with our lives, and to not compartmentalize our faith and walk. (meaning keeping it for Sunday and/or sign up sheets) Rather, we’re learning to that the Holy Spirit can be our guide in a room full of people, He can lead conversation and prompt people to share scripture or life experiences, etc. Anyway, I thought I’d stop just being a stand in the back kind of reader and introduce myself. “HI” – In Christ – Heather

    This passage was screaming out to me as I read it.

    Ephesians 3:20
    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

    Looking beyond the rubble – Amen, I gotta look beyond myself as well.

  • heather – thanks so much for taking the time to comment & ask such a good question. i knew it was coming at some point…the position i come from is that while there’s no doubt we are absolutely, positively sinners in need of God’s grace, we also were originally created in God’s image. Christ restores us to what was supposed to be. as christians, what i have observed is many, many, many never ever walk in any kind of freedom because they are always so focused on their depravity. that feels easy to access for most. recognizing Christ’s work for us and embracing what that means in our lives, well that is a different story. i love romans 7. paul articulates so clearly this battle with our depravity. but what he says is that nothing good lives in our sinful nature. it’s not us, it’s the sin that lives in us. a significant piece of the spiritual journey that sometimes never happens for people is actually integrating in the deep places of our hearts that through Christ we are restored. that means good is in there. the bad is easy to access for most. it’s always there, too, we are humans & we will always fall short. but the good–the fruit & result of true reconciliation & restoration–well, that gets ignored all the time. i think as Christ followers we are called to remind each other of who God created us to be. there’s no way we can have a full discusssion via comments but hopefully this gives a little bit of a start…i appreciate your heart and question! kathy

    mark – yeah! i love ephesians 3….

  • Thank you Kathy, I see your point now. I suppose, when I encounter schooled christians or christians who’ve gone to church for several years, the mentality they have is very similar to the world’s view, that there is good in all of us, almost to the point that they can’t understand why someone who doesn’t know God could do horrific things. So initially when I heard this, that’s what I was hearing. 🙂 My experience anyway, has been this conditional thinking, after years of seminars (knowing people who’ve lived this way I mean) reading christian books, only knowing and hanging out with christians, that there becomes this divide, “how do I relate to a non-believer?” “what do I have in commone with them?” Ultimately, my response to that is you have sin in common, and the only difference now is that you know the truth and have received and walk with the spirit. Sin is someone we can have in common no matter if we go to church or not, so thank you again for taking the time to respond and for reminding me of recognizing the work or God in us! Peace & Love – Heather

  • so much truth and realness in this post kathy. I love especially your honesty about being protective of your friends and how you can get skeptical of even spiritual things and forget just how big God truly is I think it can be a temptation to deny to ourselves when we get skeptical of God or how He works like He will get mad we aren’t 100% onboard full faith ahead You bring to mind the pasage where it says *while we were yet sinners Christ died for us* the whole passage in Romans 8 telling us nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus wow I love how you can openly share that carnival in your head press on sister!!!

  • heather – thanks for engaging in the conversation. i like it that we can all see things from different perspectives and the questions force us to examine some core theology.

    robert – nice to hear from you! i agree, that the skepticism can sometimes really keep God at a distance and i/we can so miss out! hey, are you going to go to off the map in seattle in october?

  • There is something about this post … cuts directly to the truth of the matter. Thanks for this!


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