“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”~C.S. Lewis
I prefer to live like this isn’t true. Because if I live as if this is true, then it means that I actually have to take the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” seriously. It means I have to get down and dirty in my community, a community of mostly non-believing, affluent, intelligent professionals with hidden addictions to money and status and their kids’ success. I live in a community that thinks what I believe is irrelevant, and even more likely, a little stupid. They don’t wear their need on their sleeve, they wear Tory Burch. They don’t sink under the weight of oppression or prejudice, they sink under the weight of privilege.
I attend church thirty minutes away in another world altogether. We’re a diverse church, filled with people of every shade of skin from vastly different backgrounds. Some of us have plenty of money, some of us scrape by every month. We’re young, we’re old, we’re weird, or we’re super straight-laced. We’re educated and we’re not. We’re addicts and teetotalers, professionals and students. Some of us are happy clappy christians, some of us are the recovering over-churched, and others are still exploring this thing called faith. It’s like a breath of fresh air every time I walk in there and see people who may not look like me, but who still kinda sorta live on the same Jesus-y page.
This is my Sunday community, and every weekend after the morning service, I return home to the community I live in. The community where children get high on heroin, and roll joints in the parking lot of the local deli, and shoplift for the fun of it. My church community feels safe by comparison. And so I straddle two worlds, and while my feet stand in both, I wonder if I’m doing much good in either. I show up, I do my church or mom or school thing, and I go home to my quiet cul de sac and I hunker down. Increasingly, I feel something is inherently wrong with this. I don’t know if I have any impact for Christ in either location, and if I’m not changing my own community for Jesus then I can’t even begin to think of the world at large.
Enter, Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted.
I didn’t want to read this book. I didn’t read it the first time it came out, and when I heard of it’s re-release this summer, I planned on not reading it again. It made me feel uncomfortable, as if the book itself might serve as the finger of the Holy Spirit, digging itself into all of my insecure and bruised places. I saw references to it again and again, until I finally realized that these nudges might become more of a shove if I didn’t at least entertain the possibility of reading it. So, I signed up for a copy of the new revised edition, and it showed up at my house and sat on my coffee table mocking me for a week or two. I started carrying it from room to room, just in case I decided to crack the spine. I wasn’t exactly rushing to read a book called Interrupted: When Jesus wrecks your comfortable christianity. I quite like my life un-wrecked, thank you very much.
It followed me around for so long, I finally decided to open it. In the book, Jen prays a prayer I have avoided for roughly 30 years “Raise up in me a holy passion.” A holy passion to follow the heart of Christ, which leads to “a life of service to the last, the least, the forgotten and the forsaken”. She tells us how God wrecked her life for anything else but wild obedience to Him as she and her family learned to reach out to their community in new ways. It challenged me to rethink my approach to community, which is basically to avoid anything that requires me to get involved beyond a surface level. I like to keep God in one box and my community in another. In her book, Jen shows us what happens when we let God run loose.
I want to reach a place where I can pray the same prayer, just as I learn how to pray this one too. As I read this book, God stepped in and, just as I suspected, He put His finger on all of my insecurities and all of my questions. How do I reach out to the poor? How do I minister to the poor in spirit? How do I step outside of my holy huddle and allow God to use me in whatever way He chooses? The questions are endless. I don’t know what this means for me and how I relate to my community and my church just yet, but I’m willing to ask the hard questions. If, like me, you’re struggling to reach beyond a comfortable, static faith, then I encourage you to read Jen’s book. She’s a gentle guide, an encourager, but a challenging one too. Maybe you’re not ready for God to wreck you just yet, but let me serve as the nudge of the Holy Spirit for a moment. If you’re reading here today, it might be time for your life to be interrupted.