catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 12 :: 2003.06.06 — 2003.06.19


Confronting brokenness

I don't like to cry in front of people. And I'm not very good at crying in front of people. But last Sunday during our church's adult forum, I couldn't help it.

We were talking about tithing and the words that were struggling out of my mouth went something like, "There was a time just a couple of years ago when we made more than enough money to support ourselves and it was amazing to be able to hear about a family in need and respond by sending them a check. But now, it's so hard, because there's so much need and we want so badly to do good things to address that need and we can't. We say we're giving our lives, but we wonder if that's just an excuse." That was the last I was able to say before the wise and encouraging responses.

People expressed their gratitude for the time we put into ministry, both at the church and on our own. They praised us for contributing to the vision of their faith community. They laid their hands on us and blessed us. They expressed the joy of the Gospel that frees us from obligatory law. And I am so grateful for their expressions of love and wisdom.

But I can't shake the guilt of having unavoidably misrepresented the meaning of my tears. Rob and I do honestly wonder if we're tricking ourselves into a false sense of security when we excuse our inability to tithe with our current "sacrificial?" lifestyle. My tears, however, came as a result of my conflicted spirit: I want to give everything for the cause of Christ, but I desire a reward in return.

In the midst of this journey we have chosen, we experience many isolated and embarrassing moments of defeat when we cry, when we yell, when we are ready to give up. We dare to ask the questions that lurk in the dark and doubting parts of our minds. "Where's the magic moment of affirmation? How much longer must we suffer? If we?re trying so hard to do God's will, why the hell can we barely afford to buy toilet paper?" During these times, I fight against the work that's to be done, instead of joyfully carrying out the tasks I was made to do. I start to resent the people around me whom I perceive to have chosen "the easy path."

And in my most desperate moments, I find myself asking for a sign, asking God to make good on his promise: "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened." I need to know that we're at least heading in the right direction.

Last night, some friends generously put a major puzzle piece into place for the store we're trying to start here in Three Rivers, which will allow us to live and work in our own space at the same time that we serve the community, locally and globally, by selling fair trade products. We've been diligently trying all of the handles and one finally opened. We feel as though God finally said "yes" after months of work.

But asking, seeking and knocking require a willingness to accept the answer "no," to move on joyfully when the lock won't budge. On Sunday, as adult forum was wrapping up, Rob pointed out the verse of the day to me in my planner. "It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life, that is indeed a gift from God" (Ecc. 5:19). I am indeed guilty of not accepting my lot.

Even as we strive for idealism, as we desperately try to turn a God-given vision into a reality, we cannot avoid "the hard parts" (see the article in this issue by Carol Vande Kraats). For me, the hard parts have been wondering when all of this work will finally "pay off" and dealing with the guilt that comes with from wanting a tangible reward for my sacrifices. Such is the nature of living in a broken world, but we cannot ignore the freedom of grace and the calling to try, with all we have, to cultivate the perfect kingdom of God here on earth.

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