Cars jockeyed into our cramped parking lot as flames burned the air around us. The blaze climbed higher as though it threatened to scorch the clouds. This fire threatened to take out an entire hillside littered with homes–our church is planted on that identical hillside, just east and uphill of where the fire had begun. Despite Rend Collective Experiment’s appeal to “Set Your Church on fire,” we were fortunate enough that the fire was contained to just two homes and had no effect on our facilities.
As community members recognized that the fire was contained, they took to our church as safe vantage point to view the brokenness. I was absent from this group–not out of lack of desire, but out of lack of knowledge.
Though the enormity of the fire had potential dangerous implication for our church, I remained ignorant. I was unaware of the seriousness of situation, the brokenness being experienced, and the pain of a community experiencing loss.
I live next door to our Church–roughly 100 meters away from where the fire burned. But unlike most of the local homes, I live in a renovated business. My apartment used to be a radio station. The building consists of two floors that act as two separate residencies. The top floor was originally office space for the radio station, while the bottom floor was the studio. Unlike the top floor, the bottom floor is soundproof and windowless to maintain the integrity of a broadcast. Given this reality, as chaos ensued outside, I was unaware that anything was occurring.
I found out later what had happened and witnessed some of the aftermath.
That’s often the case with life too.
An idiom exists that expresses “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Or to be more direct, you shouldn’t criticize others for the same faults you have. The idea of living in a glass house portrays transparency and vulnerability. That said, your faults are known to others (and you should therefore refrain from throwing stones of criticism).
But I think this image is incomplete. We talk about a glass house as though the danger is people seeing our faults on display, seeing us in our vulnerable and broken moments. But a window is made more to be viewed out than viewed in. It’s not just that people can see us in our glass house, but that we look out of transparent walls and see the world for what it is–broken. There is a lot of brokenness and pain in the world, pain that we don’t want to experience.
So we build.
We build walls of comfort and security. We paint them with a vocabulary of virtue. We adorn them with imagery of God’s pleasure.
We build walls not so that people won’t see our brokenness, but so that we don’t have to wrestle with a world of brokenness.
That is the reality of the suburbs. To be able to go home and live devoid of others brokenness, to abandon community in self-sufficiency and security is a uniquely suburban value.
I’m not saying living in the ‘burbs is a bad thing in and of itself, but I am calling the Church to live in glass houses–houses where we are vulnerable. Where we are vulnerable not only because we are transparent and open and people can see us for who we are but because we allow ourselves to gaze outside into a world of brokenness and wrestle with the pain of others.
When you wrestle with brokenness, you respond. When you are grappling with the pain of the world you are compelled to action.
Our God calls us to the broken places of the world. He has set us on a trajectory of redemption. To be the hands and feet of Jesus to the marginalized, the hurting, and the broken.
I may live a brick house, but I live in a community where brokenness is real and I am not sheltered from the hurting.
And that’s where I need to be.