My best advice before coming to the Lighthouse Mission

“Don’t come to the Lighthouse Mission because you have something to give to our Guests.  Wait until you’re open to discovering what you have to receive from our Guests.”  
That’s the best advice I can give somebody who is interested in volunteering at the Lighthouse Mission, and I share that with everyone who tells me that they’d like to come volunteer sometime.  

Now, I’m not suggesting that somebody already needs to know what they’ll receive from our Guests, because that would be strange and impossible.  As with any relationship, it’s not a one-way transaction between one person who has everything and another person who has nothing, it’s about walking through this journey together.  It’s about being open to discovering what a Guest at the Lighthouse Mission has to offer, and what sort of friendship can blossom in the space between what we both have to give and what we both have to receive.  

On the one hand, I receive the reminder that God often chooses to walk alongside us in our powerlessness, rather than making us do the right thing.  I need to be reminded of this often, because I don’t like the feeling of powerlessness.  God doesn’t force us to do anything.  God calls, God woos, God draws, but God does not coerce.  When Jesus showed up, he didn’t force us to do anything, instead he emptied himself of his power and joined us in our powerlessness.  And one big difference between Jesus and me is that Jesus made himself powerless, and I really am powerless (although I don’t like feeling it).  It’s good for me to be in a place where I’m powerless to solve the problems of the people around me, and they’re powerless to solve my problems, and we get to experience grace in that space together.  And as I’m the parent of teenagers, I’ve loved and hated the reminder that I’m powerless to make my teenagers do something.    

And on the other hand, I also receive the reminder that our choices have serious consequences, both for good and for bad.  Taking personal responsibility for the choices we make in life, and setting down the pride when choices turn out well and the shame when choices turn out poorly, is a hard thing to do.  I’ve learned so much about how to set down our pride and our shame from these Guests.  And as I’m the parent of teenagers, I’ve loved and hated having the reminder that our daily choices matter a great deal, and cultivating a space where we all can experience the good and the bad consequences of their choices is very important.  

This tension between powerlessness and personal responsibility is weird, beautiful, frustrating and funny.  It’s not the only way, but it’s one way where God can allow friendship to form between me and a Guest of the Lighthouse.  It’s not the only way, but it’s one way where God can allow friendship to form between me and my teenagers.  This is a strange path to holiness, but it seems like the path is headed this direction.    

So when I think about Church, I get excited when I think about cultivating new worshipping communities that are not only asking what they have to give our town, but what these new worshipping communities might have to receive from our town as well.  I get excited when I think about people discovering friendships that don’t make sense, as they learn what they have to receive and give from each other.  And I look forward to worshipping in a space that reminds me that my powerlessness does not mean that my actions don’t matter, and yet my actions cannot have to power to force somebody to do what I want.