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Engage in the Mess

Jesus is calling us to get a little dirty – not just physically dirty but to engage in the mess of life through each individual story.

I don’t know about you but I get grossed out by dirty things. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a clean freak but when there is a mess or something disgusting comes my way, you better believe I’m either cleaning it up or avoiding it like the plague. I think Jesus knows this about me and wants to put me in a position to get a little dirty, and as we look at the story in Luke 8 of the woman bleeding, I think Jesus is calling all of us in the same way.

I’m reminded of a time I was sitting in a Starbucks in Houston, Texas. This particular evening there was quite a lot of chatter in the coffee shop, baristas hustling behind the counter, businessmen intent in discussion, and a slew of teenagers laughing toward the back. I like the “ambient” noise and smell of freshly brewed coffee while I’m reading; its calming. As I sat there engaged with my surroundings but zeroed in on my book I smelled something horrendous. There is no way I can even begin to describe the smell but in my mind, I immediately went to a landfill that I had visited in Haiti a few years before (yes, it was that bad). I looked up and a woman was staring at me as she walked through the front door, at this time everyone in the room either had eyes on her or was complaining about the smell. As I looked up I kept the coffee cup close to my nose to drown out the awful smell and she kept limping in my direction as if she knew me. As she came a little closer I could see the weather-worn look on her face, her tinted green and blond hair mangled on top of her head, her ratty sweatshirt with gaping holes, and the fact that she didn’t have any shoes on. I started to look at the other people’s reaction as she limped slowly in the middle of the room; the businessmen covered their nose and proceeded with their meeting, the teenagers laughed and started taking pictures, the baristas were annoyed, “here comes another homeless,” and I sat there seemingly paralyzed. At this time she was right in front of me, holding out her hand, not saying a word…just looking at me. The smell so strong that I wanted so desperately to cover my nose. As she stared into my eyes she asked me this question that I will never forget, “Will you be my friend?” I didn’t know what to do in the moment and all I could muster out was a weak, “of course” and a wry smile. Then before I could say or do anything else, she turned around and left the store.

When I read about the bleeding woman coming toward Jesus I can’t help but think of the woman that came up to me at Starbucks that day. The thing that Jesus did in the midst of the crowd and his “busyness” that blows me away is that he listened intently to her whole story. Again, Jesus displays his compassion and calls this beautiful soul “daughter.” In the midst of the crowd that would have been “holding their nose” and “laughing,” he embraced her, listened to her story, and healed her body.

Jesus is calling us to get a little dirty – not just physically dirty but to engage in the mess of life through each individual story. Who do you need to take time to listen to this week, to hear their whole story?

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