A few years ago I was on the boat with my parents, and as I was standing ankle deep in the water I saw these things that were swimming around. I had never seen them before and they were weird. They were about the size of minnows but they seemed to have wings as they swam around.
That day I tried to catch some fish, and usually we will catch snappers, but I was completely shocked at what my line drew in. It was this larger version of these little fish with wings. I had never seen one of these things before, but I will tell you that it was big, it had round wings, and it was ugly.
Now, years later, if anything will get me out of the water faster than jelly fish, it is those sea monsters. They are gross, and when you catch them they basically croak like a frog. They are so ugly!
Yet, my son saw one by the shore the other day and wanted to catch it. No no. But it was cute he said. It was nice he said. No they were not cute.
He said the same thing about the broken shell he wanted to bring home to display. But it’s nice mommy. For one tainted by things in my home that are broken, no I did not want to bring home this broken shell.
*All names changed to protect the privacy of my friends.
Back at the end of April my dad called me to ask me for a favor. It wasn’t really a small favor. A guy that I had grown up with, we will call him Bill, was in a nursing home. His mom was in the hospital, he didn’t have friends that would visit, and it didn’t seem like he would ever be going back home. He couldn’t walk at this point, has a bit of a problem remembering things, and only one of his arms has full strength. He needed friends my dad said. My dad wanted me to be visit him.
I will be honest, I didn’t want to do what my dad was asking (kind of like I didn’t want to catch that sea robin). I could tell you the excuses I was making up. Two were that I hadn’t seen Bill in probably 15 years, and I felt it would be ackward to just show up. But when my dad asks me to do something… well…
So I called my friend Stephanie and asked her if she would go with me. We went, and we were a bit unsure if Bill would even remember us as it had been so long. And at first he didn’t. He apologized for not knowing who we were but then a light went off in his head.
You are Stephanie and Jess.
It didn’t take long for him to tell us that he hated the nursing home he was in, he was desparate to go home, and that life sucked.
Shortly after we began visiting him, his mom passed away which meant that he was stuck in the nursing home that he hated until plans would be made for him to move to another state with a family member.
Over the months, Stephanie and I would visit him frequently. She would make him cookies, or bring him a milkshake. She even organized a birthday party for him. Sometimes he would be sitting on the commode, other times he would be laying in bed waiting to be changed. But something began to change over the months. As we would visit him, and bring old photos to reminisce over, he began to smile and laugh with us.
A couple weeks ago we said goodbye to him as he moved to go live with family out of state. Although we knew that he would be with family, and that he was going to be cared for well, it was hard. I prayed for him before we left, Olivia gave him a kiss on the cheek, and as we turned to leave he told us he loved us.
Love brings life to the heart of stone.
That wasn’t the only thing my “Dad” would ask me to do this summer. There was Rwanda, and then there was doing the strip club outreach in the City.
On the way home from the City I was talking to my friend. I was reflecting on the places God had me this summer and trying to reconcile why God would have me, not only over the summer but even in a week in a halfs time in 3 different extremes. Being in a nursing saying goodbye to a friend as he is sitting on a commode trying to go to the bathroom. Being in the dirt streets of Rwanda in extreme poverty, and then that night walking through a strip club as there were women giving men lap dances only maybe 20 feet away from us.
I was really struggling with the question of “why”. Really struggling, and I had been ever since I had come back from Rwanda.
In order to be the church, we need to get out of the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I titled this post “The Day My Dad Asked Me To Get Out Of The Church”, not because my dad or my heavenly Father asked me to leave the church, but because what I realized is that in order to be the church, we need to get out of the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I always knew this, but I guess it just hit me in a new way with the different levels of brokenness I had seen in such a short amount of time.
What was interesting to my friend who I went to the City with was that just outside one of the strip clubs that we went to, there were little kids outside taking pictures with Mickie Mouse.
Think about that for a second. What a picture of the people we walk past everyday, the doors we walk past everyday, the walls that people have built up right before our eyes. We can never really know what is going on almost right before our eyes.
And then there are the people who we view like I viewed the broken shell, and sea robin. Things that you don’t want to go near. But really Jesus asks us to step out of our comfort zones, to bring His life to the world. He knows the world is broken, He knows what’s behind the closed doors, and He wants us to engage the broken world in a way that shows of His great love.
How do you do that? By stop making the excuses I began to make when my dad asked me to go visit my old friend. By doing what your good Father asks. By going and being salt and light everywhere you go, and going where others don’t want to go. By loving the unlovable, and touching the untouchable.
So beautiful one go, be the church. Because He will never ask you to stay in the safety boat, but He will give you everything you need to go where He leads.