it stinks down here, but i really love the smell…

kathyescobar church stuff, dreams, healing, the refuge 21 Comments

i like to participate in glenn hager’s monthly synchroblog (check out the other links here) just for fun because it forces me to think about some specific topics and i get to read about what some others are saying, too.  this month was just a few simple questions…

  • how  are you doing?
  • what are you doing?
  • what are you learning?
  • what are you dreaming about?  

the questions seemed timely.  the refuge just came upon its 2 year anniversary (hard to believe) & i just came out of a pretty wild & weird healing season where some important things about me & this crazy adventure became more clear.  you see,  just a little over 2 years ago i went from the olympic sized swimming pool with the super-amazing gym and spa attached (aka: cool/hip growing politically savvy mega-church that honestly puts on the most amazing service) to the plastic baby pool that someone bought at their neighbor’s garage sale (aka: small creative crazy missional church plant dedicated to community, equality, diffusing power & giving everyone a voice but really can’t pay its bills).  my downward descent has been the most beautiful & amazing thing that could have ever happened to me. in fact, it rescued my heart, saved my faith, and awakened a sense of justice & passion in me that was always there but couldn’t freely be expressed.  i’m learning more than i bargained for, here are just a few things off the top of my head:

my desperation to be “valid” has been getting in the way of freedom.   i long sometimes for church amnesia.  that i could erase all of the things i had learned about “success”, “ministry”, “leadership” and all of the other stupid measures of what made things good & viable.   you see in my old circles valid ministries “grow”, “get financially stable,” and “build up new strong leaders.”  so when i have looked at the refuge i have been a little embarrassed.  i hear the words of successful christian leadership books & see how much we are falling short.  it taps into my insecurity & woundedness, and my good-pull-it-together-instincts immediately start to kick in. i then control & manage and try to prove that the refuge is important, that i can “do this.”  and then i get exhausted. overwhelmed. discouraged.  i am learning that none of the old rules apply. we are cultivating & nurturing a faith community that is really only about one thing:  relationships.  that’s pretty much it.  open-handedly & open-heartedly loving people in and outside of our community in really tangible ways that takes an incredible amount of time, emotional & spiritual energy, and grace. recently the skies opened and i saw clearly how i have been overtly & covertly wasting energy trying to prove something to myself, to God, to others.  in the past few months i will say God has brought my fears & insecurities to the forefront in some really painful but lovely ways that have given me great hope that i don’t have to live out of that place.  the only way for me to be free is to completely throw out the old measures of success and look in one direction & one direction only–where God’s spirit is at work in the hearts & lives of the people right in front of me.

men & women living alongside each other in community creates amazing healing & spiritual transformation.  in my entire spiritual journey i have never experienced this many men and women truly doing life together.  we are learning what it is to be brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, co-workers…for each other.  we are learning to fight for each other, fight with each other, serve together, give, receive, believe in each other & point each other towards Jesus’ hope & redemption.   i am learning how to be more comfortable in my own skin, to use my voice, to screw up and let my friends see my bad side, to risk, to put myself out there, to let them know how much i need them when everything inside of me has been taught to not need anyone.   out of everything the refuge does, our dedication to creating a community where men & women have equal power & voice & value is one of the things i’m most proud of. 

the theology of brokenness is not popular.  this kind of authenticity, raw-ness, is really really scary for a lot of people.  they want answers, healing, clear-cut movement that is tangible & measurable.  they want to see results.  sometimes i want it, too, but i think that’s us wanting to relieve our anxiety about seeing other people struggle, accepting our own struggles.  it’s us wanting to manage, control, play God, strive for “victory.”    a theology of brokenness embraces our spiritual poverty, our questions, our doubts, our desire for love, hope & redemption, and reminds us that the stink & the beauty are all wrapped up into one.  we can’t just focus in on one or the other. instead, both must be in full-view together as much as possible.  personally, i think that’s the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the upside-down ways of the kingdom, but i think the tug toward put-together-ness is stronger than we all like to admit and so often people look for powerful, smart, faithful leaders with clear cut answers who can heap on just a touch of shame to motivate them.  living in the trenches of real life full of honesty toward God isn’t always pretty, isn’t always measurable. 

my dreams are simple:  1) more and more men & women try living out these kingdom principles together in whatever shape or form works for them & lights their hearts on fire. 2) that money rains down from heaven or seeps up from the cracks to keep us afloat & the dream alive.

yeah, it definitely stinks down here.  real life, actually really knowing how your neighbor is doing, sharing burdens, giving voice to the voiceless, extending our hearts, our time, our lives to people in really tangible ways. it is downright smelly. but i wouldn’t trade it for anything.  to me, humanity, divinity…together & all so exposed…well it really does create the most beautiful scent.