Did you know that of the 6 billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion of them live on twenty-three cents a day?
That half the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day?
Or that the wealthiest 1 billion people average seventy dollars a day?
Said differently, and to make it a lot more personal, if you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4 percent of the wealthiest people in the world.
And fifty thousand dollars annually puts you in the top 1 percent.
(Hatmaker, Interrupted, pgs. 42-43.)
That’s shocking to consider. Because I know a lot of families that struggle to get by on fifty thousand dollars per year.
As a result of these unthinkable statistics, this is some of what’s happening in our world:
Roughly 1 billion people do not have suitable housing, and 100 million of them are entirely homeless.
Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.
And in one calendar year, approximately 22 million people will die of preventable diseases.
Ten million of them will be children.
(Interrupted, pg. 43.)
These statistics make the #firstworldproblems we spend so much time complaining about on social media seem pretty petty, don’t they?
I knew enough about Jen Hatmaker’s story before I read Interrupted to know that statistics like these (cited in her book), coupled with her simple prayer (“Raise up in me a holy passion”) and God’s work in her mind and heart, completely changed the course of her life and ministry. And I hoped to be convicted about the plight of the “least of these” in a similarly powerful way as a result of reading her story.
Because once upon a time, I was passionate too. In the very early days of our ministry. Long before I became a mom. Yes, it only took one mission trip to Juarez, Mexico to break my heart for the impoverished people who live there, and I’ll never forget the moment when Kory pulled me up onto the roof of one of the houses we were building to show me that the shelters made of wooden pallets and cardboard stretched beyond the horizon. It left me breathless, and I cried.
So we went back to Mexico.
Year after year.
With the hope of making a difference for one family at a time.
When we weren’t there, we actively sought out ways to serve in our own community. Building houses, working with children in summer reading programs, adopting families at Christmas, serving meals to hurricane evacuees, passing out bags of food to the homeless, and loving on the people who lived in the impoverished neighborhoods near the church where Kory first served as Senior Minister.
And then we had kids.
The time I used to spend in mission suddenly became allocated to changing diapers, feeding babies, doing laundry, changing diapers, preparing meals, giving baths, changing diapers, and trying to train up our children “in the way they should go.” Did I mention changing diapers? (We’ve been doing that for almost TEN SOLID YEARS now. Not that I’ve been counting or anything.)
And because I stopped feeding my passion for mission, the flame for mission within my soul slowly began to fade, like a fire deprived of fuel and air. Over time, it became virtually nonexistent.
Until last summer, it had been 11 years since I’d been on a mission trip. And in the almost 10 years that I’ve been a parent, I could probably count the number of occasions when I’ve been engaged in hands-on missions in about thirty seconds.
Make no mistake though. Being United Methodist, mission is a central part of who we are as a church. It’s one of the things I love most about our denomination. As a result, the people in the churches we’ve served over the years have been serving in mission all around me. Doing amazing things. And Kory and I have remained financially generous to the church and its missions over the years.
But I had lost my focus and disengaged.
Exposure makes it personal. And I left myself unexposed.
As a result, I became desensitized to the needs of the “least of these.”
I hoped that reading Interrupted would fan the flame of my soul for mission, inspire me, and help me “get back out there.”
As I began to read, though, Jen Hatmaker served me up a bigger platter of conviction than I expected. Conviction that could be applied to my heart for mission for sure. But conviction with much broader applications that hit me square between the eyes.
I was sitting on my sofa at 5:30 in the morning. (That is the only time of day when I can do anything in peace and quiet around here.) I had quite literally peeled myself out of the bed, stumbled into the kitchen to find the coffee, and nestled into my favorite spot on the sofa to read. And when I did, I encountered these words straight off the pages of Interrupted:
“Why is it so exhausting to uphold someone’s heavy, inconvenient burden? Why are we spent from shouldering someone’s grief or being an armor bearer? Why is it that lifting someone out of his or her rubble leaves us breathless? Because we are the body of Christ, broken and poured out, just as He was.”
“Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say, ‘That fed me, that nourished me,’ someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment.”
(Interrupted, pg. 66.)
Someone must be broken for someone else to be fed.
Just reading the words left me exhausted. And deflated. And guilt-stricken. Because my gut reaction?
“I don’t have time for this.”
I’ll admit it. That’s what the self-absorbed, woe is me, I’m too busy part of my psyche had to say in response.
I mean seriously.
I’m a mom of three.
A pastor’s wife. (And I sit on the front row of the church every Sunday. Something I swore I would never do!)
A room mom. (Evidence that I’ve completely lost my mind.)
I serve on a leadership team for women’s ministry.
I host a small group in my home.
I lead short-term Bible studies and teach Sunday School classes throughout the year.
I’m a blogger.
I’m a sister to one.
A daughter to two.
A friend to many.
And I’m exhausted. And overwhelmed. So much of the time.
How can I possibly find the energy to “pour myself out” for “yet another” with all of this on my plate?
But no matter whether I liked them, her words spoke truth right into the center of my soul. They were haunting almost. And as I stewed on them and continued to read her thoughts on what it looks like to “live on mission,” I realized something.
I’ve got to create some margins in my life for God to move through me as a blessing to others.
Because if I truly want to make a difference in the lives of others in the name of Christ (the poor, the rich, or any of the brokenhearted in between), I have to start with relationship and community.
Real relationship and community.
And building real relationship and community takes time and effort.
(Incidentally, having recently left a church family of eleven years to start all over again in a new ministry context, I’m in a relationship and community deficit and am acutely aware of how much time and effort it takes to build. Coincidence? I think not.)
No doubt that if we want to help someone move from being a seeker to a believer, it’s beyond a Sunday morning commitment for us. In fact, if we truly want to reach people for Christ rather than simply meet their physical needs, we have to go to them. We can’t wait for them to come to us.
Because some of them can’t.
And others of them won’t.
And when we get there, we’ve got to get to know them. In their context. Without an agenda. Getting people to church can no longer be our goal. Church attendance should be the natural result of us offering real relationship that others want to be a part of.
To do this, we’ve got to be “living on mission” in the places where we spend the majority of our lives and with those whom we have the greatest influence.
In our homes.
We’ve got to leverage our presence in the nooks and crannies of our communities and love on each person we find.
We’ve got to “decode the love language of the tribe around [us], and speak it.” (Interrupted, pg. 187.) Because if we “win them over to ourselves,” then we’ll have the very best chance “to win them over to Christ.” Id. Indeed, community is our central means of mission and evangelism, and it is the most effective way in which we can partner with God to further His kingdom agenda to transform lives through the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that our ultimate goal as Christians?
But this isn’t easy. And it’s not convenient. No doubt we have to be willing to live beyond ourselves to make this happen. Something that takes practice if we’re not accustom to it, and something that won’t happen overnight.
If I’ve heard my husband preach this once, I’ve heard him preach this a thousand times:
“We cannot always think our way into a new way of acting. But we can act our way into a new way of thinking.”
With all my heart, I believe this speaks truth. And by taking active baby steps over time, we can make major shifts in the way we live our lives. To elevate the preciousness of others over ourselves. And to go forth with the heart of a servant.
Another thing I’ve heard my husband tell his ministry team over the years is:
“The interruptions are the ministry.”
“So true,” I’ve always thought. But I’ve also just thought about that comment within the context of his church staff. I’ve never really thought about what this should look like in my own life.
Thanks to reading Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted, I am reminded that I’ve got to be willing to step into the margins in my life and allow myself to be interrupted.
(Yes Kory, you were right. The interruptions are the ministry. And the “interruptions” can happen every day.)
In big and small ways.
For my family.
For my neighbor.
For my neighbor’s kid.
For my colleagues.
For the classmates of my children and their parents.
For the teachers at their school.
For the kids on the baseball team.
For the clerk at the grocery store.
For the woman struggling with three small children. (Can I hear an amen?)
For the couple with no money at the gas station.
For anyone I encounter along the way.
A mission trip is easy. It’s a one week commitment.
But the consistency of “living on mission” everyday is where the rubber meets the road.
Am I up for the challenge? Honestly, I don’t know. But I’m more aware now than I have been in a long time about where my life needs to change and where I need to grow. That’s progress. So I’ll take it. And I’m inspired by these words that give me permission to “live on mission” with courage and confidence:
“Believer, your pastor or your church can never reach your coworker like you can. They do not have the sway over your neighbor who has been entrusted to you. No one better than you can love your wayward brother. One decent sermon cannot influence a disoriented person in the same way your consistent presence in her life can. While organized religion provokes mostly skepticism for the average postmodern, a genuine relationship with a Christ follower on mission can reframe the kingdom, making a fresh perception possible. Then that person discovers that church is not a place you go — it’s a people you belong with. The building is simply the place where you celebrate God together.” — Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted, pg. 167.
Should you read this book? Absolutely. Without a doubt. Yes, you should. But be prepared. It will undoubtedly “interrupt” your life.
My prayer is that you will be open to this interruption. That you will embrace it, run with it, and begin to respond to the interruptions you will encounter along the way in your very own “smallest corner of the world.”
All for the glory of God.