Often I feel like life here is filled with sacrifice and costly choices. I can even focus on this at times and feel like the joy and life embedded in those things is not accessible or believable. It has been a strange season for me here in many ways. Having lived without many comforts and securities before; having walked through risk and danger often enough; having journeyed the road “less traveled” by my peers for years before this, I do not know what makes our time here feel so hard. Is it that I am getting older? Is it being married and having kids (something that must impact one’s perspective greatly)? Or is it L.A. and the way the sins of this city just feel so heavy?
This month marks the beginning of my employment with Servant Partners, a unique organization mobilizing church-planting movements worldwide among the poorest of the poor. As I read my employee handbook last week, the reality of what Servant Partners does sunk in on a new level: explicit discussion of conduct in light of kidnapping, war, natural disasters and the like; directions regarding how to approach education for children of staff who are on the field (read global slum communities); contingency plans for evacuation and refuge in crisis situations. As I read this document, my heart grew heavy for the cost and sacrifice that our church-planters implicitly endure to follow Jesus. And the inconveniences and “burdens” of life in South Central began to feel so small.
It is not a competition in this life: who can be more “noble”; who can give up more; who can accumulate the most scars and the greatest pain. That is not our gospel. But neither is the impoverished “good news” of comfort, safety, wealth, and popularity. As Eugene Peterson writes:
“The operating biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice. We bring ourselves to the altar and let God do to us what God will. We bring ourselves to the eucharistic table, entering into that grand fourfold shape of the liturgy that shapes us: taking, blessing, breaking, givingâ€”the life of Jesus taken and blessed, broken and distributed; and that eucharistic life now shapes our lives as we give ourselves, Christ in us, to be taken, blessed, broken and distributed in lives of witness and service, justice and healing.
But this is not the American way.”