Losing Our Lives
In Mark 8, as Jesus as talked to his followers about what it means to take up their crosses to follow, he says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:35) As I have written about brokenness, I have compared it to this idea of “being poured out.”
I think Jesus perhaps is thinking something similar to that, as well.
As I have addressed issues of brokenness throughout my ministry, there is a truth I have discovered. So many of us are afraid of brokenness … talking about brokenness … admitting to brokenness … because we are afraid that brokenness will be our undoing. As I first began to unpack the role of such brokenness in in the life of clergy, I quickly came upon the fear that brokenness would certainly mark the end of ministry … possibly an end to their own identity or self-worth.
But perhaps there is another way to understand suffering. Perhaps it has a value deeper than we might imagine.
One of my colleagues who helped me discover a different way of thinking about suffering was someone who had experienced such a devastating time in ministry that he had all but shut the door on ministry. The church had hurt him so badly … his superiors had been unsupportive and blamed him for all the stress he was feeling (which added even more stress) … he had fallen into what felt like a vacuum. Well-meaning Christian friends had told him to suck it up … to be strong … and, in one instance, described this as the cross he had to bear so he would have a closer connection with Jesus.
He was done.
The isolation he felt was overwhelming, and I was the first person who had reached out to him to invite him into a group whose sole purpose was to sustain one another in our brokenness. It required a great deal of vulnerability on the part of every person in the group, but it taught me one thing.
Community offered a new way to think about brokenness. When brokenness was experienced in community, it became the pathway that led to an even greater sense of community. In more recent years, I would learn that brokenness became the key tool for practicing empathy with others who had experienced brokenness themselves.
Brokenness, when brought into authentic community, brings so much more than annihilation. It becomes a cornerstone upon which we can build character … relationships … faith … hope … maybe even love.
In a conversation I had with my colleague, he said something that I would never forget. He told me, “Just when I thought I had lost my ministry and even lost myself, you helped connect me to a group of people where I could lose myself in a way that brought healing and hope.”
I wonder if Jesus had this in mind when he asked us to take up our crosses, follow, and then lose ourselves to God and one another. I don’t think losing ourselves is always about dying (though that could certainly be an outcome). Just perhaps this is about losing ourselves in sacred community … in relationship with God and God’s creation … where we experience healing and hope.
Lose yourselves to God, my friends, and perhaps you will discovered that you have gained everything!
God, who calls us to be lost in you: Beckon us forth to the precipice of your immense, amazing grace … call us to sink into sacred relationship … that we might find ourselves abiding wholly in you. Amen.