This is a guest post from Makrina Aziz and Sandra Fahmy – two members of the BecomingFullyAlive team. You can find out more about them and the rest of the BFA team on their website and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
After His resurrection, Christ asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And every time he answers "yes," Christ says:
“feed my lambs”
“tend my sheep”
“feed my sheep”
Because love is more than words.
Often we assume that love is implied. We assume other people are secure in their own worthiness and we assume that they know our love for them. So at times when we admonish another, we are left feeling confused as to why they would lash out and walk away. Usually we deem them as the problem, because our intentions were only ever to love.
Yet the truth is, love is a reminder that we all need daily. Just because I told you I loved you yesterday, does not mean you will believe it for yourself today. With God, our greatest and most perfect of Lovers, we need Him to remind us daily. How much more then for us imperfect humans?
Love is more than words and implied sentiments, which means love is intentional. It means because of our human condition, it has to be intentional. And being intentional requires putting a great deal of effort into wrapping love around others and maybe that's also a great inconvenience. Maybe it is even tiring but isn't that what it takes? Like our intentional God, who took on flesh, sweat and blood pouring, to come and love us where we are.
I think of the little boys and big boys that don't like their fathers, and the men who live in self resentment and hurt because their fathers gave themselves the right to discipline them before they ever gave themselves the honor of making their boys feel so unconditionally loved. I think of the man who was refused communion because of the way he was dressed, and his vow to never enter there again. Our worthiness is not determined by the way we dress, but love does, and love does not condemn.
Sometimes we come to Christ's body in our nakedness believing that here we will be clothed, but instead we become an exhibition of brokenness, pointed at and shamed. We roll back our sleeves to show the scars we've hidden for years, only to be met with reprimand, and a long list of pity-advice. We share our weaknesses and struggles, which are then used against us. Each church has its own museum; there's the man who openly shares about his sexual struggle, so everyone has to watch out for him, because of course he's bound to be flirting with every woman. There's the woman who shares her heartache over a lost lover and broken childhood, she's exhibit "X," which means stay away, she's bound to be unstable.
In light of the resurrection, the church was never meant to be a museum. As St John Chrysostom says, "the church is not a museum for the saints but a hospital for the sick." Because the cross is where Jesus hung, vulnerable and exposed, fighting against the biting darkness. Then came the third day, where He outshone the sun, overcoming death and rising to tell redemption's tale.
The “lost” and the “outcast,” they never started out that way, never intended on being that way. They were created by us in the church, who somewhere along the line named them unwelcome. And now we’re all here, trying to find a solution to a problem that we are all responsible for.
We may talk about being churches of radical love, but I wonder if we are really modeling it. Sometimes we are so focused on everything else; Sunday school, bible studies, prayer meetings, fighting heresies, organizing events and activities. We spend all our energy or even hide behind the "spirituality" of these places, which are by no means wrong, but neglect the place of intentional love.
There are pastors, priests and lay men and women who do not know how to deal with members of the Body, because some members feel too much; too emotional, too dramatic, too sensitive.
Sometimes we feel when people are vulnerable with us, that we must offer them the right words and solutions in response.
But this does not exist.
Ask the hurting what they need - a love that does;
That isn't afraid to show them that they understand how insane the world can be sometimes
That is willing to be present
That does not run from their pain
That is not afraid of their deepest struggles
That writes love on their arms
That calls them by their real name
That proclaims beauty all across their cracks
and loves every angle of their radiant, iridescent wild heart.
Maybe we can be an Eden for each other in the midst of an unforgiving, judgmental and condemning world - a place of naked and unashamed. That's how to grow one another. Our dear friend Bradley Smith once wrote, "there is a holiness in blooming where you are planted," and maybe that's how we give each other a chance to bloom where we are planted, even if right now it's all thorns and dead leaves. Dare we believe, dare we hope, in another's blooming even when the winter snow rests thick and heavy on their muddy soil? There is always beauty and life poking through the snow if we take the time to look close and long enough. But are we even stopping for another, let alone looking? And dare we proclaim that hope to each other with more than our feelings and thoughts but with our touch, our feet, our mouths, our sweat, our time and our prayers? But mostly with our life, even when it hurts, seems inconvenient or tiring. Because that is how we were first loved, by the Lover of mankind. Christ comes like spring; the snow and cold winds don't stand a chance. We hope in spring's full bloom because we hope in the resurrection to come, and only then will some snowy realities finally melt.
How many of us live trapped in the never ending, brutal winter of February, refusing to see the potential for new life blooming all around, refusing to be a vessel for spring's fresh air?
If secrets make us sick then may we be a hospital for each other's darkest secrets.
In this place of sojourn, we're all just walking each other to our heavenly home. Who's hand are you reaching for to walk home today?
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other." ~ Mother Theresa