Going down the ladder.

In 10 days time I have a Masters deadline for my Urban Theology paper. It’s actually the first ever deadline in the history of my life that I’ve had an extension on (which I know makes me like, a mega-super-geek). The thing is, besides all the theory-type-academic-stuff that you have to put into a Masters essay, this particular assignment is based on and out of the current urban context you find yourself in. And as I only moved to my particular urban context (i.e. Sapporo) at the end of January, I felt like I at least needed to give it 12 full weeks of living here before I attempted to write anything profound.

Can you believe I have now been here for 12 whole weeks?

I’m still not sure that it’s been long enough to write this paper.

But in 10 days time it will be finished. It will be finished.

As is the norm when you work a normal job alongside study, it’s going to be a busy, I-feel-like-I’m-running-out-of-time 10 days. Right now I’m sitting in Starbucks, venti London Fog to my left, books out to my right, productivity-hopefully-flowing, preparing to begin to get some quotes into the rather skeltonal essay outline I have at present.

In preparation I’ve just finished typing up an interview transcript from yesterday.

Which is where and why I thought I’d pause to write a blog post.

Because yesterday I had an awesome morning.

A Jesus-filled-Holy-Spirit-inspired morning.

Really awesome.

Interviewing the pastor of the church that I now call home.

Because like I just said, in beginning to write this paper, I actually just became very aware of how much I still have to learn about this beautiful city I am now based in. 12 weeks is long enough to make a few observations, have your heart moved and burdened and begin to dream. But it is more like just long enough to realise how much you don’t know.

So I wanted to really try to understand the context of ministry here from someone who knows. Someone who has this wealth and depth of wisdom and character and experience.

And my pastor seemed like the best person to get some time with who actually filled that description.

It was one of those you-think-it-will-be-an-hour-long-chat-but-it-turns-into-a-full-morning-and-almost-makes-you-late-for-work conversations. The best kind.

I learnt a lot, was totally inspired and personally encouraged in equal amounts. The passion that this man has for Jesus and for people is contagious, inspiring and humbling. I think there’s a deep wisdom in a life lived well and a heart that radiates the Holy Spirit that goes beyond any academic-head knowledge and reveals the fruitfulness that we can only have in a place of obedience to God. So I listened to his heart for the church, his passion for seeing the kingdom of God established in Sapporo, his wisdom about what the Holy Spirit was already doing amongst the people of this community. And I shared something of my heart and my journey and my testimony.

And I was shown so much grace.

Honestly, that’s the only word that I can use.

I’ve shared before that sometimes there’s this moment before I share some of my story where I take a deep breath and wonder what the reaction will be. Because I’ve been hurt and I’ve been rejected and even though I know-that-I-know-that-I-know the truth of what Jesus thinks and feels towards me, that doesn’t always change the reality that people can… Be more uncertain.

You know?

Being real in it’s beautiful rawness is a scary thing.

But totally worth it.

I really believe that only in the light can there be the total freedom that Jesus intends us to live in.

When I came to Sapporo I prayed a few things about being planted in the right church. But yesterday I was reminded of one particular prayer I journalled. That I could be grafted into a place of safety.

Safety.

I was reminded yesterday that God answers our prayers.

I was reminded again that it’s in the kindness of God that we find our repentance. It’s His mercy and His compassion that moves us to change. These are the aspects of His character that He uses to refine us and mould us and shape us.

His kindness.

Because in talking with a pastor who showed so much grace, not only to me, but in his words about others and reaching the community and living sacrificially and working with hope, I could see the kindness of Jesus displayed.

I was reading a book called ‘God in the City’ by Gea Gort recently, and this quote actually sums up pretty well some of the conclusions of yesteday’s conversation. I know I’ve blogged this before, but I just absolutely love this.

Jesus went down the ladder. He became a part of the world of human brokenness. He broke the bread; He broke his life. That thought is staggering. We have the human tendency to grab the ladder and climb away from brokenness, not only from the brokenness in the streets and alleys of the city, but also from the brokenness in our own lives. But if we descend the ladder, perhaps there we’ll find – amidst the brokenness – more of God than we expect.

That thought really is staggering. Because if it’s really true it changes everything. If the kingdom of God really starts here on earth and if we really do have a transformative God who’s interesting in transforming people and lives and communities now… Then it changes everything. We are called to join with God’s purposes in the city.

And so again I am reminded that my brokenness is made truly beautiful by He who is crafting me into His image. Beautifully chipping away at my hardened heart and softening the parts of me that need to be humbled and changed.

I am reminded that I am loved and free. I am filled with the meditation that I love Jesus so much and in the overflow of that love others.

I’m listening to Bethel’s new worship album this week, entitled ‘You Make me Brave’. There’s this beautiful track that has this line, and with this I’ll finish and get back to my essay.

Because locking eyes with Jesus is the place we need to be, gazing into those eyes of fire that burn with love for us.

And He has truly given me joy instead of mourning.

I will lock eyes with the One who’s ransomed me, the One who gave me joy for mourning. Steffany Gretzinger

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