Imagine a hamster – cute, furry, endlessly running in its wheel – now imagine a pregnant hamster – teeth, fury, aggressive and unapproachable. Now imagine a young child full of compassion, nurture, not really knowing the hamster was pregnant – blood…..
I am told that at the time my daughter was brave and relatively controlled. Back at home things were a different story. As she spoke these words ‘I picked up the hamster and IT BIT ME THROUGH THE FINGER’ her composure had changed from quiet misery to complete hysteria. Usually prone to bouts of irritation and impatience at times such as this I received grace to understand the situation. She was expressing delayed shock and self-preservation, mixed with a little ‘injustice’ seasoning. The rodent’s lair clearly wasn’t a safe place for my daughter to try and understand her emotions. Life didn’t stack up that day and home was the place for release.
Psychologists may have a slick mechanism for describing this type of affectivity but for me it’s simple. You’re living life, you get hurt, you need a safe place for release and search for it. In my life experience I can’t recall anybody I know who hasn’t gone through, or isn’t presently going through, this process. The hurt is usually different for each of us but its source is the same: a world fallen. The crux comes when we search for release mechanisms found in that same fallen world. Mankind needs something from beyond a quick-fix no-substance cycle often offered as a 21st century solution. At this point our ecclesiastical ‘spidey sense’ should be going into arachna-drive.
Someone wrote once that because Jesus had come and brought all things into cosmic unity, the church He founded is now the manifold wisdom of God present on earth. This suggests we are the living embodiment of the solution to so many people’s hurt. We, amongst whom God dwells, are the safe place for release into freedom so many people need in our community.
Nobody’s told them that either.
With reluctance and grim openness I face a difficult truth. The further I move into the church the less amenable I am to model the truth I have just written. ‘Sure, you can come to our church carrying the scars of physical / emotional trauma. Don’t offend us with it though. Don’t disturb our spiritual ming. Alright, maybe once or twice at the beginning of your season of visits. After that, you just don’t get Jesus do you?’
When I was in my teens I didn’t go to church. I was too busy doing meditations, selling drugs, and looking for release through sex. I met Jesus through one of those meditations. He met me, raw, full of grace, no questions asked, this love’s for free. I was in the world and He came to get me. Now I’m in His world I don’t want to get anybody. I gloss over that with lots of talk about mission and intentionality.
As I write, my mind is half in the car on my way to an audience with Nelson Mandela’s body guard. I’m taking with me a guy I led to the Lord last week. He’s young, complex and un-tidy with a whole heap of hurt to release. I’m stressed, searching for vision, initiatives, discipleship programmes, and the presence of God like a salesman; ‘I’ve reached target this week!’ The pastoral implications of this trip are in all honesty an acute source of frustration. Do I sound like a safe place for that hurt to be released? There are more like me dotted around the church of Jesus Christ.
Missional living has a function: it’s the vehicle through which God will speak into the world and add to the diversity and expression of His church. In the relentless question of ‘how’ has anybody given serious thought, I mean serious thought, to our credibility to carry out this task? Exactly what are we bringing people into? Is the body of Jesus Christ the ‘safe place’ we are asking God to send millions of people to engage in release? Or is it heavily pregnant with ideas and experience-based spirituality? A brood she is ready to defend no matter what the cost, even the wellbeing of those dear ones God has already sent our way and strangely didn’t fit into the fellowship.
Perhaps that’s why we are still in a cage. Until we have had those babies God can’t let the rest of the UK interact with us; we may bite them.