Loving the Unlovable
I like to spend time at the Wal-Mart bus stop. This may sound odd, but it’s a place where I can listen to people and connect with the community. One day a week I sit with those moving from one place to another, sometimes in silence, other times in deep conversations.
I met a woman named Patricia at the local homeless shelter once and all I had heard about her were negative comments. “I’ve never seen her not drunk”, “She’s cussed me out about a million times”, “I heard she just got arrested again, she deserved it.” Everything about her seemed to frustrate those who live around her.
Later, I saw Patricia lying across the entire bus stop bench groaning in pain and frustration. Knowing what others had said about her, I was a bit hesitant and almost left without speaking to her. Against my better judgement, I decided to introduce myself and learned that she had been kicked out of her home. She was using the bus stop bench as a place to sleep. I sat down with her, listened to her, prayed with her, and gave her some of the sandwich that I bought earlier. I took time to be with her that day, and when I left I thought we would probably never have an interaction like that again.
Fresh Expressions Embodying Incarnational Ministry
As an intern of a network of fresh expressions, I’ve found that missional incarnation has been the foundation of what we do. In my experience within the church, the word “incarnation” has become a buzzword that does not carry as much weight as it should. I’m realizing that by creating spaces for folks who are both churched and unchurched, the Fresh Expressions Movement is giving people the opportunity to be in the community in new ways.
Laying Aside Our Day to Day Comfortability
Greg Boyd writes, “Jesus reveals that God is a God who is willing to set aside the blessedness of his own domain and become fully present to others. So too, we are called to be a people who are willing to set aside the comforts and conveniences of our own lives and become fully present to others.”
By setting aside the comfort of our day to day lives and becoming completely present to one another, the lines that divide us start to fade away.
An Unexpected Surprise
A few days after my interaction with Patricia at the bus stop, I saw her while I was eating lunch at the shelter. I wasn’t sure if she remembered me, so I didn’t say anything to her initially. The next thing I knew I am getting a big hug from behind from Patricia, and she kept talking about how much it meant to her to have someone slow down, actually listen, and spend time with her. She asked me to meet her again at the bus stop. As I continued visiting the Wal-Mart bus stop, other folks eventually learned who I was, and why I was sitting there. Eventually, the Wal-Mart bus stop became the place that I was meeting with people to be in relationship and ministry with others.
Loitering as a Means of Divine Interaction
To an outsider, my time at the bus stop would be considered loitering.
To those who need the bus stop, it’s an opportunity to be in relationship and ministry with someone who will listen and love them.
By slowing down, swallowing my pride and doing my best to be incarnational, I allow people the opportunity to be heard and loved, rather than be looked down upon and ignored.
Jesus’ Ministry as The Example
Churchgoers often hear about Jesus being the Word made flesh. Unfortunately for most, those words are not embodied, and are often left alone. Jesus being the full embodiment of God gives room for those who are inspired by his ministry to live in a way that reflect the mission and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus was hanging around healing pools, busy street intersections, and wells. Jesus revealed to those around him their sacred worth. Jesus didn’t let his divinity get in the way of his ego.
By keeping his eyes, ears, and heart open for those around him, Jesus changed the world. If we don’t keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open, we may be overlooking the incarnational Jesus that may be right in front of us.
Dustin Mailman is the Ministry Intern for King Street Church in Boone, North Carolina. He is currently studying Religious Studies at Appalachian State University, and in the Fall he will be attending Candler School of Theology pursuing a Master of Divinity.