seeing the swan

kathyescobar church stuff, dreams, healing, identity, jesus is cool, rants, spiritual formation, the carnival in my head, the refuge 35 Comments

thanks my dear friends for understanding, for the love, the emails, the phone calls, the comments. i of course have felt encouraged in more ways than you know.  in case you didn’t notice, i am a verbal processor. something happens inside me when i say things out loud & God moves in in all kinds of random and creative ways to remind me of what i need to be reminded of.

i think i was clear, but i want to reiterate so there’s no mistake:  the in-the-trenches-of-real-life part of my day to day is not too overwhelming. is it hard? sure. is it painful? sure.  but God’s beauty & hope in the midst of the ugliness sustains me.   the draining, overwhelming, sucky part is the lack of resources & support.  does God provide? of course. i see miracles every day. i see generosity in the most unlikely of places. i see random acts of kindness & love & help & hope that bring tears to my eyes on a regular basis.  do i need to keep my eyes focused on that and not the scarcity that i sometimes see? no doubt.  but part of this leg of my journey is to also be unafraid to speak truthfully about what i observe about some odd inconsistencies within the body of Christ.  i don’t expect everyone to agree. i know there are some that are like “get over it, that’s life as a Christ-follower, quit your whining, keep your eyes on your own ball, and start praying!” and i will respectfully say to them that we can kindly disagree on what is helpful in this moment.   on the spectrum of life-in-the-margins i know there are countless others who doing far more intense work with far less resources in dangerous scary places that pale in comparison to denver, colorado.  i pray that nothing i am saying diminishes the magnitude of their sacrifice.  but i do not for a minute think like ministries like home-pdx should be having these kinds of struggles financially (please oh please read pam hodgeweide’s recent post on the mystery of home-pdx, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time,)  they don’t need that much and i don’t think they should have to beg for it each month.  more stable churches could be saying “ken loyd, dear lover of people without houses, we will support you to do this ministry because it is important.  the least of these deserve it.  we are not equipped to do it, we don’t have the stomach for it, but we have people with jobs and houses and we will use their money to make it happen. you are our brother and we will share generously with you.” as you can see, i just can’t get off my soapbox!   every time i think of ken battling for the simple needs to sustain such a small and important entity, i can’t help but get tears in my eyes & a burning sense of ‘something has clearly gone awry, people!’ deep in my heart.

but back to what some might call an ugly duckling, the refuge, the beautiful faith community i am part of.  i have called it that since the beginning & i am now officially going to recant!  it’s a swan. now.  not “when we get this or that or become this or that”.  i’m talking about now. yes, it’s a lovely swan. at first glance you’d never see it.  there’s not that many people in the room.  there’s chaos.  there’s a mix of people who don’t look like they go together.  there’s someone talking when they’re supposed to be listening.  there are kids running around wreaking havoc.  there’s a beautiful piece of art in the middle of the room that has crumbs all over the floor. there are people crying when they’re supposed to be laughing.   there are people laughing when they’re supposed to be crying.   it definitely doesn’t look hip or cool or, honestly, all that inviting.  but underneath, its heart is filled with love and grace and acceptance and hope and help.  and, at the same time, its heart is full of doubt and anger and fear and pride and pain.   you see, to me, the refuge is just a reflection of all of us.   we’re good, we’re bad.  we’re beautiful, we’re ugly.  we are thankful, we are disappointed.  sometimes we notice God, other times we are sure he’s left the building.  we hope, we doubt.  we do some things right, we do some things wrong.  we are brave, we are afraid. we give, we’re selfish. we’re confident, we’re insecure.

but like people, if we let the world define us, we will only see the negative, the things we aren’t.  the ugly duckling just couldn’t see it.  and the others couldn’t see it, either.  but i am fairly sure that God could see it all along.  Jesus always saw it.  in the leper, the prostitute, the adulterous, the tax collector, the disciple.  we see the ugly duckling, he sees the swan. and i believe he wants us to see what he sees.  i want to see what he sees. in God’s economy, his reflection in us reminds us of what we are, who we are.  our identity in Christ regardless of worldly measures is not something to ignore, dismiss.  i do it often & sometimes i just need a little rattling of the tree to shake me back into sense, a reminder that the upside-down ways of the kingdom are totally counter to everything i have been taught not just by the world, but even more so by the church.  answers, stability, security, put-togetherness, moving-on-ness, growth that’s visible and measurable. all these things are subtly & overtly valued & perpetuated in more ways that i am guessing we’d like to admit. and even though i know they totally contradict so much of what i believe, these weird “here’s what’s good & valuable” messages are somehow still etched in my memory.  we have associated these things with beauty.   the new imprint i want tattooed upon my heart, my mind, my  hands, my feet, are the beatitudes.  poverty of spirit, feeling, advocating, seeking justice, giving our lives away, humility, gentleness, backwards-to-the-worldness, crazy hope & peace & deep relationships in the midst of a real & honest life.  and those, my friends, will look utterly stupid, ugly, to the world and probably to a lot of christians, too.

there’s so much i don’t understand.  i am working out all kinds of things out loud, for the whole world to see (sometimes not the best idea!), and i think the biggest truth i am learning is what looks to one person like a tuft of misshappen feathers & bulging eyes is to another a vision of beauty & power & grace.  and that underneath all of the crumbling rocks & sinking sand & hazards to our health & faith is something far more sure and solid and true than we ever would have imagined.

yeah, i see the swan.