I don’t know how I got on the West Sound YFC mailing list. I’ve never been to the pacific northwest, though I’ve always wanted to go, maybe it’s God telling me something, I don’t know… :) But I got a newsletter from them a couple months ago. And unlike most newsletters, they sent me an issue that I haven’t been able to bear to throw away.
It’s because they tell a story of a kid named Mike. I can’t find the story online, so you’re just going to have to live with my crappy paraphrase of the story. They tell how Mike, who looks like he’s probably in 5th or 6th grade, got to go on a fishing trip YFC was taking a bunch of kids on. Mike’s family couldn’t afford the trip, so some guys got together and got some scholarship money from the community. On the way up to the trip, his leader found out Mike had hardly any necessities for the trip, and found out he didn’t have much of anything. Nothing for the school year, not much of anything. So they made a quick detour, got him a bunch of supplies for camp, and when they came back some folks at the leader’s church donated a $150 gift card so he could get some stuff for school, and gave him a backpack full of brand new school supplies like Mike had never had before.
Mike was overwhelmed at the generosity and kept asking why people would give money to help him out.
I love this story, and I cry almost every time I read it. Because every time I read it, I wonder if this is just a tiny little example of what Jesus was thinking about when He envisioned what the Church would eventually become.
Not an institution, but a movement.
Not a religion, but a family.
Not a bunch of hypocritical naysayers, but a bunch of broken people that work together to pick each other up when we fall down and fail.
What I loved in Mike’s story is how much he felt unworthy to receive the help of his leaders and his leaders’ friends, and, having been in their shoes before, how unworthy I know those guys must have felt in being used by God in Mike’s life.
Because, I’ve been there. More often than not in Mike’s place. Not that I’ve ever gotten a backpack full of school supplies, but I’ve gotten love and reassurance and grace I didn’t feel I deserved. Grace and love when I fell flat on my face and couldn’t do it. Grace and love when I wasn’t very gracious or loving. Grace and love when I couldn’t understand why anyone would show me either.
And the more grace I receive, the more that is poured out on me, the more I — quite frankly — prove I desperately need it because I fail, and I fail often … the more I receive grace, the more I want to give it away.
So not only can I see it from Mike’s perspective in receiving grace he didn’t deserve, I see it from the leader’s perspective too. The more God lavishes his grace on me in my failures, the more I want to be involved in giving it away. Time and time and time again (and time and time and time again … have I mentioned I mess up a lot?) God shows me He doesn’t have a limited supply of grace and love, and I don’t either.
And so there’s nothing I want more to do with my life. With my money. With my passions. With my abilities. With my voice and my writings. All of it. All of the time.
I want people, all people but especially kids like Mike, to know that there’s a family out there. A family that shares when things are hard. A family that laughs together. A family that mourns together. A family that picks each other up, dusts each other off when we fall and whispers in your ear: “Give it another go, I think you’ve got it!” when the world shouts that you’re not good enough.
Because when you hear “church” you may think of a stuffy building, a bunch of hypocrites, or something worse. But I hope you find what I found: a family. A functional family. Built on grace.