Kathy is the co-pastor of The Refuge. I don’t know much about this church, but I get the idea that they minister to a lot of “the least of these“: Folks who are “high need”. From what she has described in her post, it sounds like the “high need” people may outnumber the “normals” at The Refuge.
Because of this skewed demographic, Kathy gets a lot of pats on the back (and probably the head) for her good work, but not so much in the way of practical support (i.e. people who are willing to become part of The Refuge’s community). Mind you, there are plenty of folks who are willing to send folks to The Refuge: They just don’t want to join them there.
When Kathy has asked folks why they don’t join the fellowship of The Refuge, she gets answers like these:
““we just want to be around less broken people”
“i don’t have the issues these people have”
“we just don’t feel comfortable” ”
I have alluded to my discomfort with the poor in previous posts. So when I read this post, I felt rather, um. . .challenged? I don’t live anywhere near The Refuge, so participating isn’t an option for me, but I still felt this need to justify why I wouldn’t participate if I was a local.
To my chagrin, my responses were identical to those listed by Kathy. In fact, I began feeling a bit helpless, thinking that if I were to become involved in a community such as Kathy’s, I’d probably implode with so many demands on my time, so many broken people wanting to be my friend, so many things and people that I’d have to “fix”. It was just too much, and I shrugged and said “Sorry God, I just couldn’t do all that.”
It was then that I heard the still, small voice say: “Who asked you to?”
Stunned, I had to sit back and think. I realized that what was making me so uncomfortable about participating in a community like Kathy’s had less to do with what would like be expected of me by the church community, and more of what I was expecting of myself.
The arrogance of my thinking and the largeness of my ego actually got me to laugh harder at myself than I have for a very long time: Here I was thinking that if I were to join such a church, I would be expected to meet needs, solve problems, and make friends with needy people. Never mind that:
1. I have a fair number of needs myself right now, and not a lot of resources (personal, emotional, spiritual, or material) to share with others.
2. While I might think of myself as SuperLainie, the fact is that neither I, nor anyone else, can “solve” other people’s problems.
3. These “needy people” just might have their own friends. And maybe they wouldn’t like me all that much anyway.
In other words, I was willing to withhold my presence from a community where I likely would have been welcomed and loved, all because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own (not the church’s, not the pastors’, not God’s) expectations about what I “needed to do for them”.
(Kind of silly, eh?)
While I was reading Kathy’s post, I got the sense that the only expectation that she had of others was a willingness to be present: For her, for the church leadership, and for the church community. Yet I had to admit that, if I were local to The Refuge, I would have been reluctant to offer that simple thing because of my “whole-r than thou” attitude.
Of course, I am not everybody, and others may have different reasons for not participating in The Refuge (or churches like it. But I’d encourage those who have the same “uncomfortable” reaction to consider why they feel so squeamish. Is it because they are truly afraid of not getting their own needs met? Or are they laboring under a heavy burden of unreasonable self-expectation?
And if the later is true, are they willing to surrender that burden for a lighter one?