Is unity as reachable as repentance?

It's a dark and rainy day in Wisconsin, and I am hit with a severe case of the post-Thanksgiving cum se, cum sa blues. I realize I've done this to myself with too much turkey gravy and pie, coupled with my choice to watch a Hitler movie last night and read about Rwanda this morning. 

I've been thinking a lot about cookie cutter solutions to life, how we tend to latch on to the vision God gives us that sets us free, and prescribe it for every sufferer we encounter for a while. I do this myself, take the things that healed my marriage and, assuming the things were the magic key, tell others about them. I do it myself as I try to employ Ann's key to spiritual freedom to my life, counting up small joys and trying to make a similar ladder out of them as I try to climb out of cavern created by a painful leave from one church and the painful joining of another.  



What if what works for one person is not how God will free another? I face this hard truth as two dear friends go through divorce, and slowly realize that perhaps God is allowing divorce in their lives to set them free. I face it again when death's door opens for a patient, and that is how God heals them. I would love to jump on the Prosperity Gospel bandwagon, and believe that God heals all people in this life if only they trust Him enough. My life experience fights tooth and nail against that theology, showing me time and again that instead, God moves in mysterious ways. Speaking of mysterious, I never thought I'd change my mind about Rick Warren after reading The Purpose Driven Life, seeming so full of that false theology. But what if he is also changing, growing, learning as he leads a large church in California and begins to dive into the world market of suffering as a missions minded pastor? 

As I read about Warren's PEACE project in Rwanda, a movement designed to change church planting from an extraneous solution to world spiritual poverty to an intrinsic one, involving only the shareholders of that church instead of the financial aid and support of Western churches, I am intrigued. Director Odendahl (PhD and Doctorate prepared) writes eloquently about the project, stating in his conclusion that Saddleback Church desires this project to be 
"one in which Jesus' prayer that all of them may be one, Father...so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21) becomes a reality; a partnership that truly empowers all partners and transforms individuals and communities. It is a journey towards a partnership that integrates national aspiration with cultural appropriateness while calibrated against the Biblical mandate of being the body of Christ where each member needs the other." (from Mission Frontiers, November-December 2011)
I didn't think much about cultural appropriateness when I was working in medical missions, beyond not drinking beer where women don't and wearing clothes considered modest in the culture I was visiting. In retrospect, however, a host of issues with medical missions have concerned me, even down to the medications we prescribe and the way we expect people to manage their health and prevent disease. I think about how proud I have been, to assume that a northerner from snowy Wisconsin could assume to understand the healthcare needs of people living in the tropics. The PEACE project, part of a host of post-post-modernism movements that seek to critique and change the poorly executed mission work of their forerunners, is admirable in it's goal to refine and improve church planting and associated mission work in impoverished countries. My admiration is balanced, though, by the mindfulness of my friend Joy's current blog project, 12 Causes for Christmas. She is striving to decrease competition between aid associations in the U.S. and increase awareness of the diversity of opportunities for missionaries and supporters.

In that spirit, I am tempted to revisit my younger naïveté, believing once again that it really is as simple as serving. Maybe the differences between us that seem cavernous under the microscope of critique are really very small when seen with the naked eye of love.

Maybe I am only as different from the tropical nations I served as snowflakes on the tongue. Maybe joy is just a small step from grief, and unity a hop-skip from discord. Maybe it is all as simple as repentance, turning yourself around right where you stand, refusing to look upon the deadness of sin and focusing your eyes instead on the Grace of the Cross.