By Lead Storyteller,
It has always seemed odd to me that church is a place where we have to be on our best behavior, hiding whatever traumas and experiences have plagued us. It’s supposed to be where we wear our “church clothes,” pretending everything is okay.
As I reflect on this year and the events that brought me to Haywood Street, I can say with certainty (and a little guilt) that what attracted me to Haywood Street has also made me uncomfortable. And I don’t mean homelessness, substance use, or mental illness.
“Haywood Street is at its best when the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them' are dissolved. Being here, you’re invited to blur the boundaries you’ve been told to hold,” Pastor Brian told me as I started as the Lead Storyteller in May.
What attracted me was this freedom of finally being able to show myself, to shake myself free of the layers of ‘make-believe’ I had created, thinking I had to be a particular way to help people in a different socio-economic class. I was invited to come just as I am. What I have also learned, though, is that this is terrifying! And it’s also the hardest part of being at Haywood Street.
Whether it’s said aloud or not, I gather most of us who have grown up in the church have been taught that we are different or separate from those we “serve.” We’re the ones who know things they don’t know. We have all the answers to their questions–whether they know it or not. So, to keep up the facade, we pretend to have ourselves put together.
When I get lost in this make-believe world, caught up in my insecurities or obsessions, the Spirit taps my shoulder and points my gaze in another direction. Sometimes not so gently, She shows me where Jesus appears. All the time, Jesus is in the shadows, out of the spotlight, and in the bodies of people from whom I’ve been taught to hide.
Haywood Street has been changing me in painful ways. With all growing pains though, we can’t avoid them if we are to eventually grow up and mature. I have had the opportunity to see and hear stories from friends and companions who have gone through these pains. They have waded through the discomfort of shaking off years of hiding to be welcomed into a different discomfort–but one that feels necessary and warm.
The warm discomfort is felt in the overwhelming fullness of being in the holy presence of broken people. In our raw, exposed humanity, Christ is revealed. As one year closes and another begins, I look forward to joining my friends and companions who have experienced these growing pains. Thank you for showing yourselves and for being the Imago Deis of the world. This year, may each of us feel the warm touch of the Spirit and continue leaning into the discomfort of showing our whole selves.