“Abundance: We choose an asset-based vision of life that begins with God’s yes, rooted in the assumption that there is enough – enough of all the ingredients for human flourishing in every context. Our task is to pay attention to how the Spirit is already at work in our city and joyfully participate in unleashing forces for good.”
I confess that my early understanding of urban ministry could be summed up with the understanding that they are missing…something. It just so happened that I, with my theological understanding and desire to help, knew just what that something was. It was a perfect fit! I felt pretty good about all the good that I knew I would be doing.
One of Mile High Ministries’ core values is “Abundance”. This value is more than just a catchy sound bite. It is also a totally disorienting way to view ministry for many of us whose approach feels like the confession I just shared. It protects those whom we serve from the “Savior Mentality” that so easily becomes a driving force for those who want to help. It also offers those in ministry the opportunity to experience mutual transformation alongside those whom they serve. It makes things more difficult and messy, but I suppose that true transformation always is.
There is a line that has become a sort of mantra for how I see the most important aspect of my work at Joshua Station: Helping the soul feel its worth. I have come to believe that it is just as important to note what that line doesn’t say as what it does. It doesn’t say that I, or anyone else, need to give the soul its worth. Apparently everything that gives creation its truest worth is already there; it has always been there.
So what does it mean, then, to help the soul feel its worth? It means entering the messy work of uncovering. Most of us struggle to feel our own worth because we have forgotten how to see beyond the dirt and debris that has stubbornly layered itself on top of the truth of who we are. Helping the soul feel its worth is reminding us how to see ourselves. We are not what we have done. We are not what we have. We are not what others say about us. Yet, this is how most of us learn to see ourselves.
This sounds simple. Of course anyone who has ever tried to convince another person that they are more than what they believe they are knows this isn’t the case. I am guessing it can be compared to my journey of trying to “remember” German. I spoke it fluently for 5 years of my early childhood. “It will be so easy for you to pick it up again!” others would say. I assure you this is not the case. I have struggled greatly to master the “Beginner” level of my German learning software. Of course when we are talking about the essence of who we are, remembering the truth is probably infinitely more difficult than picking up a language.
It seems that the best way I can help these kids remember is to hold up a mirror to their true selves. Often, at first, they don’t really believe what they see in the words I use to describe them or in the ways that I try to show them dignity and respect. Slowly though the false self starts to deconstruct and glimpses of that Image of God start to shine enough that even they start to believe it. This is a long and difficult journey that we are all on together. We can all stand to see our true selves a little more than we do today.
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