Walking Toward the Wounded

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If we find church boring and our faith feels irrelevant to our lives, it might be time to look outside the norms of weekly worship attendance and start walking toward the wounded.

In my monthly racial reconciliation group, we introduce ourselves and explain why we’ve chosen to walk into the wounds of racism in America. I always had trouble giving a short explanation of my motivation, until I read John Hambrick’s Move Toward The Mess. In his book, Hambrick asks you to find what bothers you, what breaks your heart. And that’s when I found my “why.” I walked toward the wounds of racism because it breaks my heart. And I am definitely not bored with my faith because I now see how vital it is for facing this evil in the world. 

The plight of orphans and children who need stable homes keeps me up at night, so I’ve also walked toward the wounds of adoption and foster care. And like my journey into racial reconciliation my faith has a huge role in my walk.

As all wounds are, these issues are rooted in the brokenness of sin. And though it may be our nature (and sometimes our faith practice) to run far from sin, Jesus was radically different. Jesus walked right into the crowd and loved them with truth and grace. He walked TOWARD sin, not away from it.

In Luke, we read one of those events. Jesus shocked the holiest of men with his audacity to fellowship with people whose reputations were far from holy.

“And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:29-32, English Standard Version)

Jesus wasn’t bored, he was busy. 

Why Walk Toward the Wounded?

Christ set the example for us. If you’ve read the Word, you know Jesus was constantly shocking the religious leaders of his time with his unusual ways, living out his faith even more outside the church than in it. 

He illustrated who God is and what He wants us to do in order to show the world the power of God’s love for them. And if you ask anyone who has stepped out into the mess of the world, you will hear amazing stories of God moving. Tales of lives changed, relationships healed, addictions conquered, and more. Walking toward the wounded is an opportunity to experience God in a whole new way. Hence, you’ll never be bored again.

How to Find Your Wounded

In a world filled with plenty of human messes, how do you choose where to walk? 

Take Hambrick’s advice and figure out what bothers you most. What keeps you up at night? What hurts your heart to hear about? Maybe it’s something with which you have a personal connection. And it may be more than one issue, like me. Either way, if it breaks your heart, you’re more likely to stay with the issue long enough to make an impact. 

Next, find your outlet. For me, I did two things: First, I joined a small group that meets to learn more about and discuss issues regarding racial reconciliation. Second, I found contacts at the local foster care office and began volunteering. I support them with donations, treats for the caseworkers, and connections to others who want to help. I also adopted our daughter seven years ago and continually advocate for birth mothers and open adoption via my blog.

For you, maybe it’s a local non-profit that works directly on the issue you care about. Maybe there’s nothing available in your area and you need to start your own organization. If you’re already connected to a small group, consider coming up with an area to serve and doing it together. 

How to Walk Well

Though it may seem like a quick mission trip or weekend at the soup kitchen is enough, you aren’t likely to find the revival you’re looking for. Walking toward the wounded must be done well in order to experience God’s will and influence change. Here are some issues to consider:

  1. Don’t move toward the mess out of a sense of guilt. Particularly those of us who live with privilege suffer from this motivation. The problem is, once you check the block, you think you’ve done your part. That’s not the life-long dying-to-self God calls us to. 
  2. Know your limits and set them early. No one is asking you to become CEO of a non-profit, or work 30 hours a month on top of your full-time job. Once you know what you want to do and find your method of doing it, talk with the volunteer coordinators to find out what the organization needs. If nothing sounds right to you, tell them what you CAN do. 

My family can’t take in foster kids right now. But that doesn’t stop me from becoming a certified babysitter for foster kids or supporting these families and social workers in other ways. 

  1. Then set your time limits. In a month, or six months later, reevaluate how your contribution is working for both parties. If you find yourself burned out, you’re not doing anyone any good. And as Hambrick says, the responsibility to set limits belongs to the volunteer. The organization always has more work than it has workers. 

If you’re walking toward the mess in personal relationships, remember to stop and take breaks. For me, racial reconciliation work is exhausting. Race issues are extremely prevalent right now, so there are emotional triggers everywhere. I sometimes have to turn off all media for a few days to give my heart time to rest and process. Then, I get back to it.

  1. If it feels scary, you’re probably headed in the right direction. Boredom comes with a lack of challenge. When you take your faith and walk it out into the big, bad, scary world, you’re challenging yourself to share the gospel. It may be something as little as having a conversation with a non-believing coworker, or as big as founding an organization like Young Life! Don’t let the fear rule your life, let your faith do that.

As I began to tentatively step into these issues, I was terrified. But I saw God almost immediately. He opened doors for me, sent people into my life, and showed me a hope only a Christ-follower knows. Every time I think I can’t go on, He sends a Bible verse or an encouraging word from a friend my way. And to think I would have missed all of this if I hadn’t made the choice to stop being bored. Because there is nothing boring about Jesus!

If you’re interested in more guidance on this subject, I highly recommend Move Toward the Mess by John Hambrick. You can also check out this small group study designed around the book, created by My Messy Desk. 

ESV brought to you by Crossway (a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers).

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CultureKathie Harris