A Cruciform Life

A Cruciform Life

I’m not the type of person that puts much stock in measuring success by merely profit and acquisition. I have learned that stories of loss, failure, and suffering offer a more powerful scope of our salvation. Without suffering, there is no need for hope.

And as we’ve said at the Zoe Project, “Hope lets us believe that things can be different. It allows us to dream, changes our perspective; it sees the heart of potential. Hope means it’s not over yet and opens up doors for everyone! And by everyone, I mean everyone!”

But that also means hope needs to go to the people that are without it and that’s rarely popular. It means instead of staying comfortable by being around people just like you and following what’s attractive and most fashionable in the moment, we are called out to a cruciform life. We’re to be a people that have been rescued and drawn out into the world to engage its people, not withdraw from them.

If we choose to withdraw and even centralize solely around “christian activities” and “christian people” that we can profit from, we become the chief reason marginalization exists and we hinder hope.

Hope lives in the margins. Matter of fact, we don’t go to the margins to rescue people, we go there to find rescue.

That’s where I found my friend, Tyson. He’d been living in a world of suffering in the margins. Tyson was 35 years old, divorced twice and sharing custody of his 8 year old son. Tyson was struggling to make ends meet and had some deep wounds growing up. As a child, his father was accused of molesting his brother and Tyson spent most of his teenage years staying away from home. Tyson weaned himself off drugs but still wrestled with feeling like an outsider. Most people saw Tyson as the unapproachable guy with a long beard and tattoos. When I began spending time with Tyson, I was under the impression that I was going to change him, but it’s been Tyson who has changed me.

I didn’t offer Tyson charity or advice, instead I offered to be part of his life. This white, heading towards middle age, privileged pastor started eating dinner with Tyson and hanging out with his son. As we shared meals, he allowed me into his story of suffering and loss. It was gut wrenching to hear tales about him having a knife thrown at him as a little boy and hiding at the library after school to stay safe. Our time around each other opened up conversation that led to the story of redemption and restoration that Jesus brings. Tyson identified with the Jesus that suffered and lost everything before resurrection. He found hope!

In my full schedule I wouldn’t normally have time to spend with Tyson. His son doesn’t go to the same school as my daughters and his boy wasn’t starring in the same musicals. He didn’t go to my church and he doesn’t live in my cul-de-sac. I had to find time to realign myself to his world and his space… and I’ve been changed because of it. Tyson invited me into his suffering and I joined in. And that’s a gospel available not just to the well educated, rich, influential, and privileged people… it’s a gospel poured out for the poor, divorced, drunken, weak, disabled, and unprivileged. The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t see color or creed, it sees people in suffering in need of a savior and when we get out of its way it saves.

Since then, I’ve seen Tyson allow Jesus to take hold of his life. I’ve witnessed his son’s first communion. I’ve watched Tyson minister to his baby’s mama. And I’ve been reminded that when we set up shop with the gospel of Jesus Christ and open the door for people that might normally be marginalized, Jesus walks in.

A week ago I was reading Psalm 37:4 with Tyson and talking about what it’s like to suffer while delighting in the Lord. Afterwards I shared with him something that I wrote down…

“I’ve rescued you, son. You’re free to play and let me be your Father. Do you believe that I am good? Go into the places that others are too afraid to go… places that are full of people that have lost hope and become their friends – like I have become yours. Tell them how they can be rescued. Be willing to share your story – not your false self. It will be messy and risky because the enemy has caused them to be a mess and they are risky. But it will be a worthy adventure because the stories will tell of a Gospel that changes everything. Don’t go at this alone! Find others that desire this, too! Tell them to risk it all. Invite them to sail with you… workwomen and workmen that can tie lines and love to fish. Ones that jump into the water if you fall out of the boat. Don’t fear the sea… for I’m there in the uncertainty. I’ll be a lighthouse. So… will you come and die at sea or will you, instead, build your house on sand?”

Jesus didn’t embrace outsiders only because he pitied them or because he knew he had the goods to help them. Jesus embraced them because they were rushing into the kingdom ahead of the scribes and Pharisees — those who called themselves God’s people. Jesus welcomed people who knew poverty and pain, even invited them to become family sharing his dinner table, because they were ready to receive what he had to offer. Religious people, he said, could learn something life changing from them.

We could all learn something from my friend Tyson if we’re just willing to go there and stay put. That’s the cruciform life.

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