Living Well

We Are Not Okay


We have an epidemic of people who are not well. 

I am. You are. We are not okay.

A little over a year ago, I had the biggest leadership fail of my life. 

For years, I’ve been leading teams and working alongside people with a commitment to building people up into the fullest expression of themselves. 

But one day, I walked into a room full of people I cared about deeply and tore them down. I demeaned them. I made them feel worthless. I spoke at them from a place of pain that had nothing to do with them. I was not well. Something in me broke. 

Even in my apology, I apologized for the wrong things. I still spoke from my brokenness. The internal bleeding from my wounds now bled all over them. Inflicted wounds onto them. Hurt them. 

We have an epidemic of people who are not well.

This sentence woke me in the middle of the night several weeks ago and has continued to whisper to my soul. 

I wasn’t sure if it was the first sentence for my next book, my next sermon, or my next conversation. It may still be all of those things. I’m still wrestling with it.

But the sentence won’t stop. 

The shootings in El Paso and Dayton. 

The border crisis. 

The corruption in Puerto Rico. 

The president. 

The squad. 

The couple next to me in the coffeeshop. 

The toxic thought patterns on loop in my mind. 

The whisper repeats: We have an epidemic of people who are not well. 

We are emotionally unhealthy. Mentally unhealthy. Spiritually unhealthy. Physically unhealthy. Every dimension of our humanity is unhealthy.  

We are bleeding all over each other. Our wounds are inflicting wounds on others. The carnage is multiplying.

What will it take to stop the bleeding? 

In 2007, during undergrad at the University of Central Florida, when I was introduced to an Orlando-based organization at a Switchfoot concert called “To Write Love on Her Arms”. They are a movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. The founder, Jamie Tworkowski, got on stage and told the story of a friend struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. Then he quoted Donald Miller, saying:

“We’re called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding.”

It’s been about 12 years since I heard that quote, but as I’ve been hearing the whispers of this sentence on repeat, I’ve been reminded of that quote. Of our call. That instead of inflicting wounds, we are called to hold our hands to wounds. 

How can we hold our hands to the wounds without first dressing and addressing our own wounds? Our own pain? Our own brokenness? Our own evil? 

I am still a work in progress. Dressing and addressing wounds is hard, slow, and scary work. 

Shortly after my leadership fail, the turning point for me to begin the work happened one day when I was complaining to a friend. She interrupted me and said: “Sarah, you don’t sound like you are living the abundant life that Jesus came to offer you.” 

Her words stopped me. Stunned me. Stirred me. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus

Speaking to the Pharisees (the leaders and teachers of the Jewish law) and his followers, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd and the gate of the sheep pen to help them understand the freedom and fullness of life he came to offer. Jesus contrasts that freedom and fullness with the life the thief offers. A life that is deceptively and sneakily taken. A life that is massacred into pieces like an animal about to be sacrificed. A life that is cut-off from its source. 

Jesus wanted them to know the distinctiveness of being part of God’s family: We are offered a life of intentionality and purpose where we are sustained and thriving in every dimension of our humanity. The evil that separated us from fully living is redeemed through Jesus who reconciles and restores us to wholeness. 

Even though I’m part of God’s family, I was not living into the distinctiveness of God’s family. I was not living abundantly. I was living asleep. My life wasn’t truly me. My life was in pieces. My life was cut-off from its source. I was going through the motions. Trying to numb the pain inside me. Until the wound cracked wide open. Internally bleeding all over me. Bleeding all over others. 

It’s taken me a year to cultivate a greater self-awareness about my pain and brokenness that led me to bleed and inflict wounds on others. The work is not done yet, but I’m living into the wholeness that Jesus came to give me. 

My journey has taught me that I’m not the only person in God’s family who was living asleep. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the reason Jesus speaks this message to the Pharisees and his followers was because they were not living in freedom and fullness. 

Could the same be said of the people in our churches today? 

That followers of Jesus are not living in freedom and fullness? 

That leaders and pastors in our churches are not living in freedom and fullness? 

We have an epidemic of people who are not well. 

The epidemic is in our churches. 

Could it be that the Church is causing the bleeding, instead of stopping the bleeding? 

That we are inflicting more wounds because we are not dressing and addressing our wounds? 

That rather than being beacons of light, love, and life, we are part of the pain, evil, and darkness?

My friend and I were talking about the brokenness of the political and legal systems. As an attorney, I am more convinced than ever that these systems are broken. That the whole system is broken. While we talked, I shared that the reason I shifted from lawyering to pastoring is because the people who create the systems are broken. People – me, you, us – we are the root causes of the brokenness we see in the world. I made the shift from lawyering to pastoring, so that I could be part of the healing work in people’s lives. 

As a Christ-follower and as a Pastor (learning how to transition from a youth pastor to a lead pastor), I’m more aware than I ever that the Church has failed. We have failed to edify, encourage, and equip people to live into the freedom and fullness that Jesus came to offer us. Majoring on the minors. Being known for what we’re against, instead of what we’re for. Hiding in our church buildings like ivory towers that people fear entering because we shame and guilt trip people through behavior modification tactics. Editing out the things in God’s word that are inconvenient and uncomfortable for us. Watering down what it means to be set apart and to be transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of the world. Failing to teach the full gospel, including the realities of sin, evil, and darkness. 

What will it take to stop the bleeding? 

For followers of Christ to follow Christ. 

I know this may sound like a simple answer, but if we truly fix our focus on following Christ, we will come alive. We will find the path to live well in wholeness for purpose. 

There’s a moment when John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, witnesses an interaction between Jesus and a man who has been invalid for 38 years. Jesus is entering Jerusalem for one of the yearly Jewish celebrations. He enters through one of the gates of the city where there was a pool surrounded by multitudes of people with a range of diseases and sicknesses. Legend has it that an angel of the Lord would stir the waters and the first ones to reach the pool would be healed. So, the multitudes of sick people laid around this pool waiting for something to happen. Jesus sees the man who had been laying on a mat for 38 years – unable to move. 

Jesus asks the man:

Do you truly long to become whole? 

The man begins to make excuses about what’s keeping him from reaching the pool – from receiving the healing from the waters. 

Jesus says: Get up, take up your mat, and walk. 

In an instant, the man does something he didn’t realize he could do, but Jesus knew. Jesus knew the potential for the man to be healed from the disease. 

Jesus calls him to do something he didn’t know he could do. 

We have an epidemic of people who are not well. 

The epidemic is in our churches. 

But if we truly long to become whole – to come alive and live well in wholeness for purpose – there is light for our darkness. There’s opportunity for healing. Jesus still sees our potential. Jesus still heals. The wounds in his hands heal our wounds – they stop our bleeding.

As we dress and address our wounds, we become the hands that hold the wounds of the world. We can stop the bleeding. We can offer the healing for the epidemic: Jesus. It’s always been Jesus, it will always be Jesus. Jesus is our path to wholeness and purpose. 

Here’s a starting place towards dressing and addressing our wounds

Take 10-15 minutes to write and doodle your response to the following questions: 

  • Do you truly long to become whole? 
  • Why do you truly long to become whole? 
  • What will wholeness look like for you? 

The path to wholeness and purpose, begins with having a clear sense of our “why”? Healing takes time. Understanding why we want to heal anchors us for the journey ahead. 

Together, let’s live well!

sg

“There’s a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”Rachel Held Evans

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