This doesn’t directly relate to the Boston Marathon bombings, but it has everything to do with working in ministry service with and to difficult, hurting people.
I am sure it happens to different ones of us in different ways, situations and times, but sooner or later we are faced with what we followers of Jesus call our sin. Our own sins, that of others, sins of humanity. In this day, plenty of other names are used of course.
“The end of innocence” comes with the realization that all humans fail.
For me it was while singing in a band in which I was the youngest member by about four years.
One night in a rock club (both underage and illegally drinking and drunk as I often was in these clubs, being in the band) I looked out in the crowd to see two of my high school teachers with blond babes on their arms. All three and likely five of us were in sin… these weren’t nice church ladies… and the guys were obviously looking for one-night-stands. The point hit home to me that every person of every age in every stage of life has the capacity to break whatever moral as well as civil laws humans -or even those God Himself comes up with (see The Bible for details).
Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to live a biblical, moral, civic and personally ethical life but as all on this planet have failed plenty. If law were the solution to personal and societal ills Jesus would not have had to come and die… for our sins -as the Bible indeed teaches.
At some point earlier than my conversion (nearly eighteen years old), I realized being shocked about human sinfulness was a bit like being amazed that we all breathe 🙂 At least this was the case for me. Innocence had long gone out the window.
I have told the above story before, and it was a sort of an enlightenment about adults being as self-centered and indeed sleazy as we kids were in our sexual acting out, vandalism, prank phone calls and petty theft in my neighborhood.
Yet among me and my friends there were a fair lot of incidents of porn, a couple of friends who with their siblings were into incest, checking out some of my own family’s tawdry novels and the like.
My mother had a married boyfriend who visited nearly every night for years.
I had a couple of friends who were gay or bi and wanted to know which of their friends might join them.
And then there was human history, and especially that of war which I studied a great deal.
People were always fighting over power, mineral wealth, trying to make more money or keep on top and to get as much loot, property, etc. as they could.
All of this plus being a child of divorce where both my brother and sister went through painful breakups and divorces all taught me early on what I already understood when I later read in the scriptures that Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to humans because He knew what was in their hearts.
Knowing, then facing my own capacity for sin and self with these and other lessons prepared me to work with and live alongside broken people here in Chicago.
Story after story dwarfed mine, situation after situation, people coming to us for help, sharing every sort of mess. The same has been true in my many travels throughout the world.
I continue to get loads of mail and email whether from people who have some sort of Christian upbringing or none, all this taught me to expect just about anything from anyone -so being truly surprised at what people say, do or did, or hearing this or that story, much of which only God knows what is or isn’t truth and reality, well, there is truly nothing new under the sun!
I do believe due to the load of truth, fiction, gossip, slander, pain and individual sin issues anyone in ministry faces, a great many in ministry just quit. It can get overwhelming at times.
Anyone can accuse anyone of anything and there is little one can do about accusations. Trying to keep as far away from appearances of evil, genuine accountability, establishing and maintaining practical safeguards are hugely important.
Still, hurting people hurt others and for a zillion reasons anyone who works with people and especially with hurting folks is bound to face trouble as it’s merely part of -their- life so will in some way become part of yours.
Any parent with a conscience knows all we can do is raise our children up the best we know how at any given moment.
Over time the child will do as she or he chooses and eventually direct love and guidance may even be out of the question. Nobody can force anyone to live a moral, much less authentic Christian life.
When you mix in issues of substance abuse, abandonment, personal anger for actual or imagined wrongs, little or no involvement by parents, other realities of daily living never imagined plus a growing sense of personal rejection and even lack of caring by most around them… that individual has a load to carry that can grind them down.
So when people act out, I am just never surprised. I did my own acting out prior to walking with Jesus, and I never expected perfection among His people as I knew I would surely never be in this life!
“The greening of Glenn”, “the loss of innocence” or understanding of the depth of hurting, sinful people came so early and often in my life I conclude God was preparing me for future work among hurting people.
If reading this has gotten you depressed, I only want to say that I live in eternal faith, hope and love not of my own making… nor from any human source as such. If this were not the case I’d have simply lived my life as a self-focused singer, avoided leadership at all costs and kept as safely distant from people and their troubles as possible and simply died one day.
But if you have a genuine calling, it’s not up to you who you serve.
Certainly knowing along and along what a pain I can be helped and helps me keep perspective… you can put an exclamation mark on that!
Then there are those breakthroughs, those “they’ve gained light… he (or she) is truly making progress!!!” moments. Times when the person in question actually blooms like the flower God intended them to become -when they have the “AHAaaa!” thing happen and become more trusting and indeed more in character like their Savior.
THAT’S the deal.
Innocence born-again: repentance, restitution, forgiveness. Yes. It has happened to me and it’s a major joy to see it happen in others with the grace to play even the smallest part in the process!
Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn