I hate June bugs.
Hate em, hate em, hate em!
A childhood bane, these hard-shelled, reddish-brown bugs showed up in June. Mostly crawlers, they periodically flew up at you. Frightening! Our small back porch would be full of them, a carpet of bugs. If you stepped on them, they crunched, squirting guts and goo everywhere. Usually, boys like stepping on bugs! Not me, not with June bugs. I still shudder at the thought.
Did I mention I hate June bugs?
Those of you who know June bugs get what I mean. If you don’t, trust me. You would hate them too!
Imagine: God sends the angel Gabriel to you. June bug nation is in trouble. The June bugs are lost, confused and broken; they need help. God has chosen you to leave your human body, become a June bug, hang with them, give your life for them, perhaps squished by a boy.
Would you say yes?
A clumsy analogy, but it helps me think about Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth, taking human form, walking among us, giving His life for us.
We humans think we are pretty cool, so Jesus becoming human doesn’t seem amazing. But for Jesus, it was a huge step down. He left the glory of heaven, becoming a small, helpless baby. He gave up power and privilege. More, He chose the hardest spots of our world to do that—a manger, an obscure village, hanging with ne’er-do-wells.
Maybe, a bit like you becoming a June bug.
Sit with that. God became man, motivated by love. Christmas begins that story.
John says it best: “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus became human, like us, to save us. The word for this is incarnation. Note the word carne (meat) in the middle of it. He took on flesh, meat, bone and gristle. Quite a step down from heavenly freedom, power, and glory. He descended to love us.
Start here: We should wonder at that descent, worship Jesus and embrace Him fully, returning love for His love. No greater story exists.
But there is more. We should also imitate Jesus, letting go of comfort in order to lovingly serve those around us. We too need to descend into a life of neighbor-love and service.
For Diane and me, that descent has led us to live and serve among the marginalized. More about that in a moment. But right now I want you to think about descent where you currently live.
For years we served a comfortable church in a comfortable suburb. Our heart was for the poor, but God sent us to the middle-class. I accepted that, but it long frustrated me. Surely serving the poor is a greater call. Mother Theresa helped me. She never lectured people about serving the poor. Instead, she said this: Start where you are. Love your family; love your neighbor; love those in your workplace. Die to yourself to serve them. That in itself is a June bug journey. She would say that to you.
We did that in a comfortable world, loving those around us. Then, God plucked us out of the burbs and dropped us into the hood, amidst beautiful people who experience daily the pain and brokenness of extreme poverty.
I remember—vividly—the first night Diane and I spent in Room 36 at the Ranger. It was a tough night. We knew our call to East Colfax meant that we needed to live in the middle of our friends, not just driving in to do good, then driving back to the burbs. Long story short, a stray comment by Diane about living in a motel ended with us in Room 36.
It was and is a crazy idea—poverty, mental illness, addiction, prostitution, violence, shabby living quarters are defining features of an East Colfax motel. Insane! Yet it was Jesus’ plan for us.
There was an up side: We would be present among our friends, more able to love and learn from them and even—in some small way—experience the life they live all the time.
But it was a shock to us, me especially. Diane is tougher than I am! The first night I was sick. The room had been cleaned, but the deeper reality of these old rooms is that they contain the accumulated mess of countless transient people. Old beds and old carpets have absorbed who knows what. Many here are chronically sick—coughing, hacking, wheezing. I call it “The Motel Flu.”
I had it that first night, sitting up, shaking, sick. It lasted several days. Even then, Diane and I struggled physically for months until we replaced the old carpet, painted the room, did a deep cleaning.
There were other hard things—loud neighbors, violence, anger, murder, constant sirens, middle of the night disturbances, discovering how many of our friends sold sex to survive. We saw up close our friends’ despair and hopelessness. We felt—and still often feel—helpless.
Compared to our comfortable house in a comfortable suburb, family and friends around, this was a shock. We descended to live among our friends. A step in our own June bug journey.
I don’t want to glorify our story. We still own our home and go there most weekends to breathe and connect with family. Plus, we truly love Room 36 and our closeness to our friends. Our journey is a poor imitation of Jesus’ great journey. But still, hard.
Diane and I are grateful for your support. We couldn’t be here without you. You have made this hard but beautiful journey possible. Thank you!
But again, think of your own journey of descent, first in the places God has placed you. Embrace that; love your neighbors; die to yourself so you can live for others. There is no better life.
And, keep your heart open to how God might call you to serve those on the margins. We all have responsibility to love the poor. Trust Jesus to make your path clear.
Loved by Jesus through His descent, we can together love our neighbors as a part of our descent. Maybe a bit June bug like!
PS: If God is nudging you, you can still make a year end gift by going to the Support Tab. You can support either our general giving which keeps us on the street, or the building we are rehabbing. We are still working on matching the $100,000 Anschutz has committed to our building if we can match it. Thanks!