For those who don't know, the church I work for and attend, The Hills Church, is hosting what we call Renew Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. This is a time during which we partner with several external organizations and ministries that serve the poor, the homeless, the oppressed both here in our community and abroad. Every dollar taken in during our offering time this week will go to these ministries. I was asked to write a blog for this weekend to help spread the word and decided I'd go ahead and post it here as well. For more information, please head over to renewweekend.org. To my great detriment, I didn’t get to participate in Renew Weekend last year. My wife and I welcomed our first kiddo into the world just a few days before this special weekend took place and as you might guess, we were locked away inside our bunker/house trying to make sure our child didn’t contract the Ebola virus and thus missed the whole thing. It is a bit ironic, then, (at least I think it’s ironic; Alanis Morissette really messed up my generation when it comes to understanding what is and what is not ironic) that it is this child who kept us away from Renew last year who has also made this season of Renew such a pressing and important weight that tugs so heavily at my heart this year.
“Everything changes when you become a parent.”
You hear that phrase A LOT when you’re expecting your first child. Friends who’ve had children say it with wide, knowing eyes, veteran parents say it with bemused smirks, and random strangers yell it at you unprovoked in the aisles of Target when you’re just trying to buy some Blue Bell Ice Cream without thinking about the stressful situation you’re about to be in. But no matter how many times you hear this, it doesn’t really ring true until you’re actually holding that little bundle of grumbles for the first time and you realize that, in fact, that stranger in Target was correct because everything really has changed. Parenthood changes the way you sleep, it changes the way you eat, it changes the way you live.
And it changes the way you relate to the events of the world.
Once upon a time when word of a tragic accident, a shooting, a natural disaster, etc. would reach me, I’d think, “That’s awful”, maybe say a quick prayer, and then go on with my day. Now, without fail, when something horrible happens, my first reaction is, “What if that was Cooper?” What if Cooper was at that school, what if Cooper was in that car, what if Cooper was one of those kidnapped children? Most of the time that’s a passing thought then the logic side of my brain kicks in and I’m alright. But there are times, usually when I’m rocking him to sleep, when the brokenness of this world and how it relates to my son hits hard and I wind up having an ugly cry all over the poor kid’s head while he’s trying to get to sleep. (You’ll notice the title of this post is not “How to be the World’s Manliest Man.”)
As a result of this, I’m going to be honest and tell you that I’ve been pushing Renew Weekend to the back of my mind. In the midst of everything I have going on in life, be it work, raising a child, interacting with friends, or preparing for “24” to come back on TV, confronting the very real issues that our world is bursting with and which Renew Weekend is specifically designed to combat has been difficult for me to take on emotionally and so, I have avoided much deeper thought on what we’re doing here.
As such, this afternoon when I sat down to really think about Renew and the ministries and organizations we’ll be aiding, I did something I don’t usually do and went for total silence. I turned off the TV, hid my phone, and sent my kiddo away with my wife (Happy Mother’s Day, Lindsey! Here’s an increasingly obstinate child for you to deal with by yourself!) and sat in silence in my office. I read through the Renew website, looked at the organizations we’ve partnered with, dove into the stories being told in other blog posts, and considered what God was asking of me, both in terms of writing this blog and in the ways I connect with the Renew ministries.
And I cried. I cried for children who live within a block of me who do not have enough food on the weekend, for women who have been forced into the sex trade that propagates so many dark corners of this world, for expecting young parents who feel like they don’t have anywhere to turn, for those who are stuck so deep in addiction that they’ve lost all hope of ever seeing the other side, and kids not much older than mine who were sold into slavery by the very people who were supposed to protect them. And over and over again, I could hear God calling me back to the theme of this weekend, to rebel against the darkness that I have so easily pushed to the backburner because it makes looking at my own child with dry eyes a little more difficult.
So as we prepare for this upcoming weekend, I would encourage each of you to do what I did and take a few minutes of silence to consider what Renew is all about. Turn off the TV, lock yourself in your office, sit in your car at lunch, hide in the bathroom, whatever you can do to find a small piece of solitude. Think about the ministries this weekend will support. Read through the other blog posts and the information provided regarding these wonderful organizations. Have a good cry because this is heavy stuff that we’re dealing with here and sometimes we all need to be broken a bit in order to truly love. And most of all, come to the Father with an open heart, an open mind, and an open ear so that you might be led to your place in this. And then come to Renew Weekend prepared to give, prepared to act, prepared to do what God would have you do, prepared to join a rebellion.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40