Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pretty and Ugly

Like most young Christians I hoped to do great things for God, and most of all I admired the Christian women I knew who had that magic way of connecting with people, and to whom people poured out their stories and their hearts.

Like my sister Rebecca, for example, who had such an incredible gift that at my grandma's Amish funeral, four different relatives told her, weeping, about their wayward children and asked her to pray for them, this despite the fact that the weepers wore long black cape dresses and white coverings, and Rebecca looked pretty wayward herself, an anomaly in that plain crowd, with a sweater and skirt and short hair.

But it wasn't just that I wanted to keep up with my big sister. Hearing and helping people one on one was what I longed to do, more than, say, medical work or teaching or street evangelism.

It didn't happen for years, though. People just never seemed compelled to tell me their problems. Oh well. I didn't obsess about it, but tried to do what showed up in front of me to do, which is a good strategy for anyone.

It was while we lived in Round Lake that IT started happening. Maybe I was becoming one of those select Christian women at last.

But it didn't take me long to discover something else. People's lives are not pretty. Somehow I had always pictured a certain sort of woman across the table, dripping tears into her tea. The dynamic, slim, popular, smart, manicured type that everyone liked and admired. And I would have just the right wisdom to neatly fix her problems.

Well. The ones who showed up in my life were not the smart and popular type. They were terribly overweight and struggling with diabetes but still they would eat six homemade cookies with their tea. They had addictions. They did phenomenally stupid things. They had messed up their minds with chemicals and didn't make much sense. They abandoned their children. They had no skills. They were not the sort you wanted to sit beside at a picnic or go shopping with.

And generally I had no clue how to help them or fix their problems.

Jesus said, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."

So, if our ministry is going to be Christ-like, it's going to be to the sick, damaged, chaotic, ugly, twisted, unpopular, and embarrassing. And sometimes all we can do is love them and make more tea.

Of course, I found out after a while that the slim and manicured often have their own reasons to cry into their tea; they're just a lot less likely to admit it.

I've re-learned this many times since: People's lives are not pretty. But that's why Jesus came, because all of our lives are hopelessly ugly without Him.

Now you need to go read the post that inspired my cogitations this morning. It's called Ugly Ministry and is written by a young man named Asher who works with his family in Los Angeles, and he puts it way better than I can.

Quote of the Day:
Me: Jenny, Rachel told me she saw a hole in Janane's skirt and Janane said, 'Oh, that happened when Jenny and I were lighting candles and one fell on my skirt.' So. What's with this??
Jenny: [flippantly] Oh, Janane and I were lighting candles and then we'd take them to the bathroom and put them under the faucet to hear that hissing sound and one fell onto her skirt.
Me: Where was I????
Jenny: Oh, you were in Minnesota.
Me: WELL. Just. so. you. know. From now on you ABSOLUTELY. NEVER. play with candles and matches when I'm not there. EVER. You two could have burned the house down and yourselves along with it. Dear me, the stuff you find out after the fact.
Jenny: [sigh]
Ben: Jenny, if you don't like those kinds of lectures, it's a good thing you're going into entomology and not chemistry.


  1. Thank you for this. Sometimes I have wanted to be this person, but when I actually have been, I have felt so burdened by others' pain and had nothing to do, when I wanted to fix it! I have to remember that just as Christ came to fix and heal my broken, messed-up life, so He came to heal theirs as well. This summer I will be doing ministry in Europe, and I know I will encounter some of the ugliness, and need to remember that the One who sees it all will always be in control, and He has just called me to love.

  2. My Mom is one of those people who seems to attract the sick and needy like a magnet. I used to resent it. Now I'm beginning to see what a blessing and inspiration she is to those around her. Someone asked her recently how she finds out about all these needy people. She didn't know what to say. It's just her way of life. I want to be more like her.

  3. "...sometimes all we can do is love them and make more tea" That is profound, and what grabbed me most!

  4. Dorcas: amen, amen, amen! it's not a lesson I've mastered but I think the Lord has to remind me over and over again that He is no respecter of persons, and that everyone is valuable to Him, no matter what the world thinks. Betsy from Indiana