Living in community and playing a role

We want to run to the altar
and catch the fire
to stand in the gap
between the living and the dead
Give us a heart of compassion
For a world without vision
We will make a difference
Bringing hope to our land

My eleven year old self desperately sang those words at youth camp.

I would later know the drill.  Just as stand-up comedians prepare for the punchline, musicians work towards the climax layer upon layer. Build it up dynamically as the drumming intensifies. Drive the chords, push the vocals. 

I flinch when I recall the emotions that accompanied that song. It was a song that changed my life, moulded my perspective, and fanned a flame that would help me see the world in a clear divide: the saved and the unsaved, the insured and the uninsured, us and them. In saviour complex mentality, I believed I would be an instrument of change, specifically by bringing “salvation” to the “lost”. These thoughts worked seamlessly into the fervour of my teens.

It wasn’t until an email conversation with author Christine Mallouhi that my assumptions about my life purpose were upturned. She challenged my idea of “ministering” to others. She wrote about living with others and sharing her story. There was no concept of trying to help others, but more about living in community and playing a role. Her words struck with resonance like never before and I went on to read two of her books and was catapulted into a journey of deconstruction. Slowly, the boundary markers disappeared, and my image of God broadened. 

Today, I don’t hope to stand in the gap, but to stand with. In our days of zealous keyboarding warriors we may hope to put out some fires rather than catch any fire. Yes, give us a heart of compassion, but not for a world without vision. Simply, give us a heart of compassion. Compassion for our fellows, compassion for ourselves. Will we make a difference? I don’t know. Perhaps small changes over big ones. In the movie “Don’t Look Up”(Spoiler ahead! At this point, go watch the movie if you haven’t already seen it. Is it on Netflix? Yes.), the voice for change seemed impossibly drowned in the noise of hype and free speech. With the end of the world inevitably approaching, our protagonists instead cook up a feast and gather at the table. They pray together and eat together. Is there a better ending than that?

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