Today I finished reading “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli. I started it on Thursday and probably would have completed it in one day if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to work and had other commitments I had to be at where having my eyes glued to a book page wouldn’t be appropriate! Honestly I don’t think I could have read this book at a more perfect time. Lately I have really been struggling with feeling like I’m never going to be a “good enough” person…let alone Christian (as if there is such a thing)! I don’t know all the answers, I’m not super spiritual, I allow my faults to hold me back, and I constantly need to be reminded that God doesn’t love me for what I do…but because who I am.
Here’s a book that’s all about people in the same place. People who don’t have it all together, but love God and want to live for Him and who are daily trying to figure out how to walk that out. People spiritually taking three steps forward and two steps back. People who keep fighting the good fight…even when it doesn’t look how other people expect. People like me…and maybe even you!
Two of my favorite stories from this book are as follows…. The first one is about a young man who became a Christian and within a few weeks heads out on a missions trip to inner-city Philadelphia to share the “Good News”. He approaches a very large tenement building and begins climbing the stairs with the plan to go door to door “Preaching the gospel”. Behind the first door he knocks is a young woman, smoking and holding a naked baby who’s bawling his eyes out. He begins to tell her about Jesus and the woman proceeds to curse him out and slam the door in his face. Dejected he ventures outside, crying on the curbs about his failure and stupidity for thinking he could do this. Then…in the midst of his despair…he gets an idea and heads to the corner market. Picking up a pack of diapers and some cigarettes he returns to the house of the women. Hesitantly she allows him in and he spends the afternoon helping her take care of the baby and smoking with the women. When he’s ready to leave she asks him why he did this…and at that moment he gets to share the gospel with her! I love this story…how it speaks to meeting people where they are at…how it’s messy and unconventional….how it shows the love of god in that “preach the gospel and if necessary use words” kind of way!
The second story is about young women whose in school to become a lawyer. Before graduating she decides to spend a summer working as an intern in the inner-city. She ends up building some pretty close relationships with some gang members and invites them to go to church with her. Upon arrival the gang members are ushered to the balcony of the church…separate from the rest of the congregation. Then during greeting time, several of the gang members want to reach out the pastor…tell him how much they appreciate what he does…but since they are in the balcony and he’s on the floor, they yell out “Hey pastor, you’re real cool”. After service the pastor approaches the young women who brought these kids to service and informs her that they are no longer welcome in his church since they lack proper church etiquette. Can you imagine?!?!?! The story makes me angry…and yet I’ve been “that pastor” and I’ve seen others in the church act as him too! We all would like to believe that we are welcoming...that we are open to all people…that we love unconditionally. But we also like being comfortable and having order and being in control…and sometimes….because of that…we fail…ourselves and others.
We are not perfect…I am not perfect. Things aren’t always going to go right, or according to plan. God’s ways are so different than ours that sometimes we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and into the love of God! Lord help me to have this kind of relationship with you…and the courage/ boldness to honor you despite my reputation…to love you and others no matter how messy it may look! Amen!