“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.”
- Frederick Buechner
In a world where these two adjectives can simultaneously and accurately describe our experience, few things are simple and straightforward. We live in a complex reality of butterflies and bomb threats, youth camps and youth cancer, and we feel the weight of these experiences both for better and for worse.
In such a place, where we encounter the brokenness of others and even begin to see our own, the backstory of brokenness is rarely as simple as a bad decision, at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Ok, in a broad sense, it is all about sin—in the beginning anyway—but after that first fall, the mix of personal responsibility and the effects of others’ personal responsibility began spiraling out of control. We see this play out in the opening chapters of the Bible. There are hardly 4 people introduced to us before jealousy and envy lead to murder and then exile…not long after their parents had been exiled themselves.
In each of our experiences as humans, just like the experience of our original parents, life cannot be broken down into a handful of truisms or a single alliterated sermon outline. Seriously, imagine the complex shame and guilt Adam and Eve must have felt knowing that their mistakes lead to the murder of their son…at the hands of his brother.
So yes, there is sin. But then there is suffering that we experience because of the brokenness of this world and its people. Whether it is the diagnosis of a chronic illness, or the effects of growing up in an abusive or neglectful home, the reality of suffering as a cause of brokenness is valid and real.
Beyond suffering there is also damage. Sometimes terrible things happen that not only hurt in a moment, but get carried with us for the rest of life. Don’t believe me? Just ask a veteran with PTSD about cruel irony that happens every 4th of July. And it doesn’t take a war to experience suffering or damage. Often times its a parent that can’t manage their alcohol…or maybe just their finances. Or maybe there was a guy at a party…
The point is that the church (your church, my church) is full of beautiful people that have experienced terrible things. People that were made in the image of God, sought after, loved and redeemed in Christ that still carry the wounds and scars of their experiences in their souls and maybe even on their bodies. And if the church functions the way it is suppose to then it is ground zero for the recreative and restorative work of the gospel as the body of Christ does the will of Christ in the world that it occupies.
This work is not a legalistic sin hunt. And it can’t be abbreviated to short rhyming word pairs that overly simplify the complicated experiences of human life.
Buechner’s words are an echo of the many times we see God comfort his people in the midst of trials in both short and long seasons: “Be not afraid.” They should comfort us not only through our own trials but as we walk through difficult seasons with those that we love and care for.
If you are a pastor, elder, lay leader, or volunteer in the local church, join us as we talk through some helpful categories and care strategies based on resources from the Bible, Christian tradition and good science.
This particular workshop is a unique opportunity: it will be taught as a conversation between a pastor (Rob Gibson, M.Div), a psychiatrist (Robert Stewart, MD), and a therapist (Brandon Smith, MA). While their training, roles, and perspectives are diverse, they are unified in their passion to see the church become a safe place for broken people who need love and are hoping for a better ending to their stories. Don’t miss out!
When: Saturday November 17th 9:30a to 12:30p
Where: Chapel, Sojourn East Community Church
How much: $25 for general admission, $10 for full-time students.