By Katy Kaseburg
These women! These women seeing their sister step out and proclaim truth boldly came not to judge her for a weakness but to join her.
I have been asked ‘Is it really wise to have that many people with that many issues all together in one place?’ The face of this question has been a parent, a colleague , my own family and even a resident after her first week of being in the program. On that face has been a look – for lack of a better phrase – of holy fear. All those broken people in one place? Really? You think that’s going to work?
Yes I say, and again I say yes.
Mercy is a wildly miniature, intensified version of the rest of my life. A small ripple is felt as a wave because of how closely residents and staff are knit together. Let me show you –
In my counseling I like to throw curve balls every now and then, challenge a resident to see themselves in a completely new way, to turn their world upside down. One of the residents let me challenge her last week. I asked her to say, in the fewest words possible, what she most needs to believe about herself. She replied ‘I am worthy of love.’
Honey, you are! Okay, here is what I want: “honey when I say your name I want you to add ‘is worthy of love.’ Every time okay?” doubtful looks and nervous giggles start, then “I guess I could. Okay.”
Let’s practice. “Honey…?” “is worthy of love?” “Honey…?” “is worthy of love.” “Honey…!” “is worthy of love!”
I walked her through the house, replaying this scene till everyone knew what to expect from her. It made staff come out of offices and residents smile in the most understanding way.
Here’s the part I want to share, the part that gets us back to living all smashed up together like this: four days later, I was transcribing some assignments on my desk. Instead of a name at the top, there was simply “Is worthy of love.” I knew who she was. But the next one, and the next ones had phrases too!
this darling, “hears from God,”
this precious one, “is covered in grace”
this treasure, “is free.”
These women. These women! These women seeing their sister step out and proclaim truth boldly came not to judge her for a weakness but to join her.
James 5:13-16 exhorts “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective (emphasis mine).”
James tells me to be intimately and desperately connected into relationships, to a point of putting my weakness right out there. Which is completely opposed to the powerful voice in my head telling me to RUN AS FAST AS POSSIBLE AWAY FROM PEOPLE! Especially those who know me. Especially those who care. Especially those who are open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, for he might lead them right into my shame.
God is giving me a step-by-step guide to healing. Get into community. Get honest. With wisdom, show your vulnerabilities. Respond to God, not to situations. Get prayed for. Get healed. [For those of you wondering, there is a healthy dose of waiting and surrendering in the process!]
The moment I admit to myself, to God and to my community that I am one messed up human being is the moment that I have opened the door for God to move in my life. That is the thing about Mercy, in coming to a place like this you have to be pretty sure you need help. When a new resident walks into the house she sees residents sitting on couches, making meals or stretching post-fitness and she KNOWS each one of them has declared ‘I am not okay!’
There is an openness to such humility that is very approachable. I’ve never had a resident say about another “I’m so confused, I didn’t know that she had any problems! I trusted her and now I’ve found out she is just as messed up as I am.” Again and again I hear “I’m so confused, I didn’t know anyone else struggled with this too. I thought I was the only one and it feels so good to know I’m not alone! If she can do it, so can I.”
See, messy is not just Mercy. Messy is actually why God gets all his people together in places we call churches. Out of messy, comes pruning, refining, and defining. When a resident at Mercy has a transformation of soul is it undeniable by every other resident and staff because we have SEEN the messy and we know just how deep it ran. There is no better encouragement than this.
So yes, issues bump up against issues here. But they do in our homes and churches too.