Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Loving and Loss

For the past couple months, Michael and I have been praying about an opportunity to move into an apartment complex in order to get to know people outside of our Christian bubble. Through a placement program in Dallas, we would be given an official role in an apartment community hosting events, fostering relationships and providing care for tenants. This idea thrills us because we love getting to know people and making new friends. But it intimidates us too, because it means leaving what we know and love in order to live among and serve a people unknown to us. 

This past week, we said goodbye to some friends who are doing just that. On Thursday, these friends of ours left-- for the Horn of Africa, one of the most dangerous places on earth-- to live among a people group that has never known Jesus' love for them or His grace extended to them in the gospel. They packed up their life, said their goodbyes, and left their home of safety and comfort to give themselves to an unknown people. Our relocation story is incomparable to theirs; but on the same day that we said goodbye to our friends who moved to Africa, we were asked to move into a specific apartment complex. On that day, the "idea" of living among and loving an unknown people became a reality, and it scared me. I felt the weight of what my friends are doing by leaving this country for good, and the weight of any decision to move into the unknown for the sake of loving others. On that day I realized that this kind of pain-- the pain of loss- is at the very heart of the gospel. 

The thought of moving out of our home is painful for me-- I will grieve the loss of our first home as a married couple; of the community we've been so blessed to be a part of here; of a family that has taken us in and blessed us beyond expectation. Here we've had a haven where we could adjust to a move across the country, transition into graduate school, and learn how to be married. Instead of being taken advantage of, we've been ministered to. And suddenly last week, we were committing to walk away from all that, in order to be in a completely unknown situation, where none of those things are a given. Our role in this new apartment community will come with responsibilities and risks; we'll be planning events to build community and minister to the needs of the tenants. We have no idea if we'll be liked, if we'll meet their expectations, if we'll be able to make one meaningful relationship. In fact, it's almost certain that this new situation will come with more rejection, conflict, and stress than we've experienced in Dallas thus far. 

As I was grieving our loss and counting the cost of this future commitment, I thought of my friend moving to Africa. How much more pain she must be feeling at the loss of her entire world-- not only is she saying goodbye to nice landlords and a sentimental apartment, she's saying goodbye to everyone and everything she knows. She's leaving her family, her culture, her every belonging-- in order to love those unknown to her. She's moving to a community that could potentially be far more hostile to her than apartment tenants might be to me. She's moving to a place where the very lives of her family members are at risk. 

And then, I thought of Jesus. He experienced the greatest loss of all, because He left the bosom of His Father- the most perfect, safe, and loving relationship imagineable. He left the comfort and warmth of His home-- not a fanciful Heaven with clouds and gold dust, but a place where there is so sin-- no brokenness, no tears, no conflict, no rejection. He left the safety and intimacy of that home to live in the midst of our sin and brokenness; to immerse Himself in the sickness of humanity. He did it in order to love a foreign people-- a people who would take advantage of Him, reject Him, and ultimately who would kill Him. Unlike both my friend and me, He left His home of comfort and safety knowing the exact cost it would be to love. He knew the ways He would suffer and He chose to love anyway. That is the heart of the gospel; that God left His position of safety and comfort in order to love us. 

After facing my pain and meeting Jesus there, I realized that the pain of the gospel-- the loss of safety and comfort in the call to love-- is overcome by the joy of the gospel. Jesus experienced ultimate loss for the sake of love, but it was worth it to Him. He faced rejection, suffering, and even death, and Yet He accomplished exactly what He came to do. He came to die- to give His life as a ransom for many-- and to be raised again in a life victorious over death itself. That same new life is what He offers to all who come to Him by faith. He was willing to suffer unfathomable loss in order to give it to us. Because of that, when He calls His own to suffer loss for the sake of love, they can look to Him and remember that whatever the cost, it's worth it. One person coming to know the love of Christ and the gift of new life with Him is worth any price I can pay. Why? Because my Savior considered it worth paying the ultimate price in order to bring me new life. 

I could lose my sense of comfort and familiarity for the sake of loving the tenants in an apartment complex. My friends in Africa most certainly will lose that-- and they could lose their very lives-- for the sake of loving the people around them. And yet, whatever the price, all we have to do is look at Jesus and be reminded that it's worth it; that the joy of new life is greater than the pain of loss. 

It was worth it to Jesus to suffer loss that we might know His love and experience new life in Him. Who has suffered loss in order to make that love known in your life? How is He calling you to do the same in the lives of others?  

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