I don’t know when I first realized how badly I needed it, or how intensely my soul longed for it. But I know when I realized I did not have it.
My story is not one in which I turned from shocking sin to intense, unrelenting devotion to God. No, my story is one of private sin, hidden deep in my own safe world. It is a story where most thought that I grew from an obnoxious kid to a full-time ministry good young man. I was well thought of for the most part, and I had a lot of friends who thought just like me. I thought I had it all… faith, community, cash, comfort, and sacrifice. (Grrrr… I make myself sick every time I think through that me…)
I moved from one full-time ministry position to another-I was celebrated as brave for making the “risky” move. In retrospect, it was a small risk, but it felt huge to all of us in it. Somewhere after that, after getting a taste for following the Spirit, and seeing Him come through in ways only He can, I began to see my community erode.
My family began a process of adoption, one for which we were supported and applauded… It solidified my faith, took all my cash, made me step away from my comfort, and helped me learn what sacrifice meant, and in the midst of it all was my curious community. My community wanted the celebration of it all, but was hesitant to understand or want to understand the hard parts—the gut-wrenching, sick-to-my-stomach, cry-my-guts-out-every-day parts. In part, it was my fault-I asked so much more than I had ever asked of them, was needier than I had ever been. And one by one as the hurts came (and anyone who has been through adoption knows, the hurts come), my community became like wheat and chaff. Some just stepped away, became distant, or advised me that it was too hard, too messy, and just did not fit inside the paradigm of what we knew of God-because God was in the comfort, not the hard. I began to feel deeply hurt.
“Our lack of community is intensely painful. A TV talk show is not community. A couple of hours in a church pew each Sabbath is not community. A multinational corporation is neither a human nor a community, and in the sweatshops, defiled agribusiness fields, genetic mutation labs, ecological dead zones, the inhumanity is showing. Without genuine spiritual community, life becomes a struggle so lonely and grim that even Hillary Clinton has admitted “it takes a village”.”
― David James Duncan
While some left during this time, God brought others who came alongside, wept, cared, researched and tried as best as they could to understand. My wife and I have come to call these people our village. We have desperately tried to cultivate it, to invest back in their lives and to enjoy being known and vulnerable-not whitewashed and placated.
It took the hard to see the separation, but the more difficult our life became the more our community changed to an oil and water separation-our village, and the others.
As I reflect on the Thanksgiving season now past, I am so grateful for our village. I am thankful for each of you, who have sacrificed, prayed, worked to understand, and showered love on us. Thank you for entering into our village. My heart is longing for the time when I will be in Ethiopia accomplishing the mission God has placed on our hearts, but I am also incredibly humbled as I think through the ways in which you have obeyed the Spirit to partner with us in all this.