When does the church grow? Looking back on our life together, I am struck by the growth which has happened each time someone has made themselves vulnerable. Perhaps someone wrote a Wednesday email or a Lenten reflection which was wholehearted and brave: and when you read it, you felt the spirit stirring within you. Perhaps someone spoke during a service, asking a question, naming a difficulty, giving a testimony or requesting prayer: and, when you heard them, you sensed the spirit’s rich honeyed presence. Perhaps someone emailed the list asking for help: and when you turned up ready to move a house, or hand over soup, or take a kid to soccer, or pray, you stepped into the presence of love.
Such spirit-filled moments didn’t happen by themselves. Each time, it took somebody with courage to say: I’m moving: please help me. I’m lonely: please eat with me. My dad’s sick; I’m frightened; I’m struggling: please pray. I’m dry, angry, hurting, confused: please walk with me as I work this stuff through.
Because when people made themselves vulnerable, others stepped up, and we grew in faith and love.
Everything around us tells us to be self-sufficient, independent, DIY, self-made; to hide our flaws and failures; to appear calm and in control when we’re actually frantically paddling to keep our heads above water. And of course our entire economy is built on this illusion that we need to do, have and be everything, all by ourselves. But Jesus calls us to a different way. In Christ, we are called to love, serve and care for one another, and to help each other carry the load: for if a brother or sister is in need, then we too are hurting. Yet such a community of interdependence doesn’t happen without vulnerability: because it takes vulnerability to ask for and accept help.
Perhaps this is why Jesus says the poor and grieving are blessed: because in poverty and grief we cannot ignore our need of others; we cannot pretend that we go it alone. Many years ago, I had a long daily bus ride through a poor Hispanic area, and every day I watched complex negotiations unfold as women swapped metcards and coupons and five dollar bills and childcare and whatever else was needed to support one another and strengthen their community as a whole. The generosity, joy and general chatter struck me as extraordinary at the time: but this is what a Jesus-centred life looks like: an interdependent community of love and care.
So the next time you’re struggling, ask yourself what values you are upholding and what sort of world you are building. Are you aiming for independence, self-sufficiency and the illusion of control, a world of atomised individuals going it alone? Or will you risk acknowledging your need and, in doing so, help us build a community together of interdependence, mutuality and love?
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