Just a bile duct in the Body of Christ


skeleton en pointe

The footbone's connected to the ankle bone ...

I have an acquaintance who feels stuck. Like there’s a big pile of something in front of him that keeps him from doing what he fervently believes is most important.

He’s not lazy or unproductive. On the contrary, he’s an award-winning web designer for a global nonprofit. His work – often late into the night – provides the clear, clean, and professional framework that allows dozens of the organization’s offices to get the word out about their local activities.

He writes a thoughtful blog with a great many followers. He uses his musical gifts in church worship … any church, just ask.

Yet, he feels stuck. Like there’s something more … something else he should be doing. Directly serving the poor, that’s what really is on his mind. He knows he’s First World wealthy, even if he’s not “wealthy” by U.S. standards. And yet … something is in his way.

He wonders what’s wrong with him. And it’s good he should question himself. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

So maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s lazy. Maybe he’s stuck because – like most people – he doesn’t want to move out of his comfort zone. You see strange things when you spend time away from home. And it doesn’t matter if that means going “away from home” to the inner city or “away from home” to the suburbs or “away from home” to the country. I remember, once upon a time, looking out across a misty country dawn and hastily pulling the window shade because “who knew who might be out there among all those trees?” We’re all uncomfortable with what we don’t know well.

And it’s not surprising he should look at the size of the challenge and feel overwhelmed. He’s one guy. In this “great Recession,” if we let ourselves be honest about the numbers, we’re perilously close to the “one-third of the nation ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed” that FDR called a Depression. What is this one guy – and the other individual men and women who are concerned – going to accomplish? Especially since that they’ve already recognized that an awful lot of organizations are in it for their own good, and the problems are way more complex than the two-year programs that funders want to patch on. And while it feels good for a minute to click a button on a “social enterprise” website, you only gave money. You didn’t do anything.

All of this is smart. At the same time, it’s been thought through so alone. It’s what happens when we live in a time where we have joined house to house and field to field until no space is left and we live alone in the land (paraphrasing Isaiah 5:8). We are each of us so wealthy that we have forgotten how to need each other. And yet, that need is so hard-wired into our being that we face that hump, that impassible hummock of who-knows-exactly-what when we attempt to make a move by ourselves and fail … over and over again.

We are built for community. We are designed to be part of a single Body. We rarely think how all-encompassing that metaphor is. The Bible comments that the eye cannot tell the hand it is unnecessary; that if the whole Body were an ear, it would have no sense of smell, “ …the body is not made up of one part but of many” all of which are dependent on the others (1 Cor. 12: 14ff).

But have you considered recently how a bile duct would get around if it had no feet? How a kidney would change the world without hands?

These little-seen body parts are critical to our ability to digest what comes from the world into the body and to remove toxins. But they don’t take us anywhere.

And I wonder if my acquaintance’s obstacle is: he is out of community. He has no hands or feet. He is very capably sorting through what’s coming into the Body from the world, because he’s part of the digestive system or maybe part of the nervous system that transmits messages. But he’s disconnected. And so he feels stuck because he can’t roll along on the power of the feet and hands God intends for him … feet and hands that are not his but part of a local church where people very different from him will belong.

God promises that the church will be full of people who are not at all like each other. And he promises that together “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12: 27).

May all who feel disconnected dare to connect, despite the vast challenges, with people who are, by God’s purpose, immensely different from ourselves. May we there find the community God intends, drawn together by our immeasurable need of God and each other. And may we discover that in community we are finally able – equipped with all the parts God gave us – to move forward to act on the purposes that tug at our hearts.

First published May 1, 2010 on The Alternative Mainstream

Copyright (c) 2010 Carlene H. Byron

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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