When I first moved to York I was in a class lead by Brian Rice on Leadership. There is one lesson he taught that I’ll never forget. Hopefully I remember it well enough to represent it well.
Brian said to us that when people first become followers of Jesus there are a couple steps that pretty much everyone goes through. There is a time of asking questions and exploration. Then there is a time where that person makes a choice and gives their life to Jesus; as we saw at Living Word, cross the line of faith. Then that person enters a period of exploration and questions where basic questions about God and Christianity are explored: what is the Story of the Bible? What does it mean to be a Christian? How can I love my neighbor when I really hate him? Question after question. It’s an amazing time of exploration and wonder. I think this part of the journey is like when Dorthy enters OZ for the first time: her whole world moves from black and white to technicolor. After that there is a time when that person starts implementing what they are learning: they serve more, join a class at church, maybe go on a mission trip. It’s a period of just living out everything they have been learning.
I believe Brian’s point was that this is where a lot of Christians are.
But then Brian drew a wall after these steps. He said (I think) that this is a wall of some unexpected suffering that is crippling. When suffering comes and people hit this horrid wall that forces them to question what they believe and why they believe in the context of their new reality. “Where are the promises of God?” “Does God love me” “Why did God let this happen?”
I think most of us turn away. Suffering is just too painful.
I’ll never forget Brian drawing that wall. I saw my parents hit this wall when they had my sister Kimberly. She was born with significant disabilities and it shook their faith at a whole new level.
Brian wrote that this wall forces us to answer the question, “Who is Jesus FOR REAL. Who is God FOR REAL. What does it mean that he loves us and has given us hope in things eternal FOR REAL.”
He encouraged us to move through this wall and enter into a whole new authentic journey with Jesus that we never experienced before. That suffering doesn’t have to stop our journey of faith: it can be fuel that takes us to a place we otherwise would have no courage to walk into.
I’m at that wall. Pam and I are asking these questions. At this wall is where the Church showed up and wrapped it’s arms around us.
Pam stayed at York Hospital for one full week. In that week the church exploded around us. Everyone struggles with the church to some extent. And if you don’t, your not going with your eyes open. But Jesus loved us that week constantly; and it was through His body, Living Word Community Church.
Pam and I were in the hospital for one full week after Ben’s death. Pam almost died from Preclampsia and HEELP Syndrome. We were both hurting so much. When we came home we received over a hundred cards in the mail each of them sympathizing with our loss. At first we were timid to open them, not sure what people would say… but soon I would make it my day’s priority to go to the mailbox just to see who is thinking of Ben and our loss.
People made meals. People stopped by. People listened. People wrote. People emailed. People facebooked. It was amazing. I think God gives us the church to remind us that we aren’t alone. His church is broken, because it’s full of broken people. But His church is also beautiful, because it’s full of people who are trying to help each other see what we can’t see on our own.
Brian was right. I’m at that wall. But I’m not at that wall alone. And that makes all the difference.