Into the Depths
This reflection was submitted by Micah member Urban Neighbours of Hope (UNOH).
He sat before me in his wheelchair, patiently waiting. The bathroom smelt of strong disinfectant. The light was bright, almost blinding. The only sound was the monotonous hum of his hospital bed. Our surrounds were inhospitable and sterile. But what we had just undertaken certainly wasn't; as his carer, I had just been assisting him with the unsavoury task of cleaning out his bowels. It isn't a pleasant task; for me or for him. Yet, this man, whom the world has been unthinkably unkind to, endures it with grace, dignity and humour.
This is certainly not what I had envisioned as I looked forward into 2015 at the end of last year, after having completed my Sub-merge year and deciding to continue as a novice with UNOH. Indeed, I had grand plans and elaborate ideas for my novitiate - I now realise I may have been suffering from a rare condition known as excessive pride and self importance! However, despite a few misguided delusions of grandeur, my decision to stay with UNOH was primarily a response to an invitation to go deeper; to go deeper in God, in community and in myself. Deeper into what exactly, I was not sure. But I was promised that in the depths, I would find growth and healing; something I longed for.
In Ezekiel 47:1-12, we hear of the Son of man being led through water that is ankle-deep, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, and then finally to water that “was deep enough to swim in – a river that no one could cross” (v5). We later read that it is in this deep section of the river that the water heals and brings life to everything it touches (v7-12). Jesus desires to lead us to deep water, to the water that gives life. But in deep water, we must run the risk of not being in control, of allowing ourselves to be carried.
The tasks required in the provision of personal care, although at times mundane and repetitious, often leave me feeling ill-equipped and completely out of my depth. I have come to find great comfort in the words of Jesus, “You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3, the Message). On this particular night, as I began the next task of washing him, despite my fear and discomfort, I experienced a softness of heart I hadn't experienced for a long time. I was overwhelmed with compassion and struck by the thought “This is Jesus who sits before me.”
God is funny that way; we often encounter Him when we least expect to. I often don't understand this upside down kingdom that I am a part of. But I do know that God is with us, Emmanuel, that He enters the mundane and even the sordid, and makes it beautiful. I am being challenged that “Growth is the illusion of moving forward. As though one is growing into a better human. In reality, growth is not the movement forward but a movement backward. It is not becoming a better human, it is becoming the human you were always meant to be” (Joel McKerrow, Beyond Rhetoric, 2012). I realise that as I tend to this man, I am refinding my own humanity and that in the process I am being healed. I am rediscovering who I was made to be in Christ. Together, as we go deeper, we are being carried and new life is birthed.
By Ashlee Planck - UNOH
Lord, we pray:
- Open our hearts to your teaching and your wisdom. Let us not rely on our own understanding, but reveal to us your character.
- Help us to understand your Kingdom, which challenges the ways of this world. Help us to live out Kingdom values as we seek to be salt and light.
- We are thankful that in our weakness, you demonstrate your strength, and that you use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor 1:27). May we offer our lives humbly to your service.