Embracing the Broken
by Dr. Bruce Main
February 26th, 2015

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God."- Ephesians, 3:17

"What drew you this kind of ministry?" I asked the 21-year-old college junior.

"Do you really want to know?" she replied.

I was having dinner with a group of ministry leaders from a small liberal arts college. This young woman led a ministry group on campus called "Rahab's House." Every Friday night, she and ten other young women would walk the red light district, passing out hot chocolate to prostitutes and listening to their stories. This was unusual, gutsy work for someone so young. While other collegians spend their Friday nights partying with their pals and attending football games, this young woman drives an hour to the heart of the city to help people very different from herself.

"Yes," I said. "I'm very curious. I like to learn how people find their sense of calling."

She paused for a moment, studying me a little closer, as if she was debating whether to give me the real story or the sanitized version, and then she began. "I grew up in the 'perfect' family. My parents were both active in church. Church leaders, in fact. Their relationship wasn’t great, but our home was a good place to grow up. And then it all fell apart."

I braced myself for what was next.

"One day I came home from high school. I was 15 at the time- my sister was 13. The police were at my house. I walked in the living room to find my mother talking to the police. My father had just been picked up for soliciting sex from other men in a public bathroom."

This was not exactly what I was expecting to hear from this bright, committed young woman. I guess I was thinking that she might have heard an inspirational speaker preaching about how Jesus hung out with prostitutes. Not this kind of family crisis. 

"Well," she continued, "we later learned that my father had been molested as a boy. He had never told my mother. He had repressed all this stuff for years. Nobody knew. I guess that was the shocker."

I tried to ask another question, but she continued.

"My parents were great performers. they performed at church and convinced everyone that they were 'together' people with a perfect family. And they performed in front of my sister and me. But underneath the performance was brokenness. Sexual brokenness."

"How did the church respond?" I wondered.

"They kicked us out. The whole family. But to my parents' credit, they tried to work through the issues. They are still working through them."

"So," I ventured, "how does this connect with your work with prostitutes?"

"Well, most these women out on the streets have been abused as children. that's what I discover when I talk with them. So, in some small way I can relate."

What struck me was the maturity this young woman showed in processing this devastating event. For many 21-year-olds, a situation like that might turn them away from God, the church, and Christian service. She had turned her pain into empathy. Her disillusionment and confusion led her to a deeper place.

I was troubled by the way the church responded to her family, but sadly it did not surprise me. Instead of embracing this this family and walking with them as they worked through these deep issues, their fellow Christians abandoned them. Besides the emotional shock threatening the marriage, two teenage girls were left to navigate their way through that complex situation. The older one seemed to get through it, but she said her younger sister has not fared as well.

"The church just can't deal with this stuff," she later said to me with surprising clarity and maturity. "We talk about grace, but where is it?"

She had a point.

M. Scott Peck wrote in his wonderful book, A Different Drum, "There can be no vulnerability without risk. and who is willing to risk if you are going to get ostracized, expelled, judged, and maligned? Where is grace? It starts with you and me. 

In 1988, Dr. Bruce Main founded UrbanPromise Ministries in Camden, NJ to equip children and youth with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership. Selected by Christianity Today as one of the country's "“50 Up & Coming Leaders Under 40,"” Bruce speaks nationally and internationally at mission conferences, colleges, churches, and business seminars. 

More of Dr. Bruce Main: http://www.urbanpromiseusa.org/