May 24, 2016

Thoughts from Mark

I had an encounter that has rocked me to my core. Over the period of several weeks, I was introduced to the pain, the exclusion, the rejection and the darkness so many people feel. I’ve had my own experiences with such feelings before, but never to this depth and intensity. The pain was excruciating and real. It felt like there was no way out–except to run.

And run, I did. Kind of. Late Saturday night, walking a muddy farm lane in the rain, the Lord revealed His heart to me about it all.

In talking with Dawn about my experience, I told her that I felt like such a hypocrite. I was giving my life to and leading the very thing causing so many people pain. (I will explain this more in a moment.)

Her response? That’s why you’re qualified.

Dang.

As I’ve reflected on the experience, I had to consider Jesus. His teaching reached some. His miracles reached more. Yet it was on His cross that He reached us all. It was there He felt everything we felt. He experienced the pain, the isolation and the unworthiness caused by our sin. Right there is where He understood us. He knew us before His suffering. But it was the cross that opened Him to the crush of it all on us.

And it is why He is worthy to be our King. It’s why He is qualified.

Heaven rejoiced at the One who experienced the pain of this world. The Lion of Judah was now also the lamb slain. Yes, the devil was defeated. Yes, sin was overcome. But the real victory was when Love experienced every painful nuance of living without love. And Love kept loving. Love kept being Himself.

And that’s why He’s qualified.

Yes it was sin that caused the pain. But one of the great inflictors of this pain was the church. And this is why I felt such the hypocrite. The very organism meant to be the culture of the Father’s loving heart had become something very different. And I was a leader in it.

I experienced exclusion while carrying the banner of “Come!”. I felt a dart of judgement in the declaration of acceptance. I endured the darkness of depression in the pressure to be a happy Christian. I felt uninvited, unseen and ignored. And it hurt. Badly.

I wanted to vacate my place. I wanted to shut it all down so no one could experience this pain through me ever again.

And then, Love spoke.

He reminded me to not react to the pain, but to embrace it. To take it in and let it remind me of how much I love. Instead of running to avoid it, He encouraged me to embrace it–so that every spring of love within me is opened.

That was not easy. The pluming emotions were strong and influential. Their arguments were valid and proved with multiple witnesses. My reality was distorted by what I was feeling. Friendly faces were morphing into mockers. What I had known to be true and right was now being challenged by an emotional onslaught.

Nonetheless, on the muddy lane, I heard Love’s voice. “Be wise, my son. This is necessary. This is for Me. This is for them. You have to experience this because you are My son. I want you to love them in THEIR reality, not your own. That’s what I had to do. And when I did, I proved I’m not a judge. I am a Father. I am love.”

The darkness and the rejection had duped me into believing what it wanted me to believe: that no one wanted me, no one loved me, no one was going to be there for me. The resulting feelings left me feeling anything but “qualified”. Yet, Dawn’s words resounded deep within me. Deeper than the lying swirl of emotions. Past the shaky foundations of false identity they were creating.

I knew so many others felt these things. And to them, it wasn’t just an encounter. It was their reality. He experienced us in our totality and I think He wanted me to do the same. Then and only then are we “qualified” to be involved in the hearts and lives of people.

I now know why much of our ministry is leaving people empty and even worse-off than before they encountered it. Now I understand why people see cliques in the company of One. Why our hospitality feels like a closed door. I am aware of the dissonance I once tried to explain away.

And I repent. I see and I understand. It is causing me to love all the more. My heart is more open, more alive and more aware of you and what you feel and believe to be true.

I want you to know that your pain, your feelings, your darkness and negative experiences do not disqualify you. Let Dawn’s words drive deep into who you are.

All of it. Yes, all of it qualifies you.

In love,

Mark