Day 76-24 – Going Through the Storm with Community

After 76 days, I have a couple of theories. I realize I haven’t exactly come up with ground-breaking ideas. Nevertheless, these are my thoughts after all of these days watching Justus. The first one, I’ve been saying a lot and I mentioned last night (Day 75-23) – community is the only way to go through a storm. Our family, extended family, our church family, our friends, and #TeamJustus have been our community since virtually day one! Without a doubt, it has made a difference in our ability to get through these 76 days. More on that in a minute.

The second theory, is a little more a theory. I keep hearing from everyone how surprised they are at Justus’ progress. Just in case you think that’s all hyperbole, here is what he was doing today. The picture is him literally laughing out loud at his uncle on Facetime. While he’s watching he’s also trying to grab the phone from his aunties hand (purposefully moving!). He is able to pull himself up from sitting on the edge of the bench to standing. He can’t stay there long, but think just 3 weeks ago… really? He’s graduated from his wheelchair with harness and straps everywhere. His new bigger wheelchair just has a seatbelt. And that’s just the beginning of the list of things he’s accomplishing.

I know the impact prayer has had on his recovery and rehabilitation. Or I should say, I don’t know exactly, but I am well aware that God is the ultimate healer. My point though in all of this is the impact that the level of support has had on Justus’ progress. For seventy-six days he has been under the care of doctors and nurses and specialists. But literally, with the exception of a few times when we weren’t allowed to accompany him into an MRI room or a surgical room, there has been a family member (remember who I consider family!) at his side watching and when appropriate interacting with him. One common thread I keep hearing and I keep witnessing is this; Justus really wants to get better! I believe God has used, in large part, this close support group to motivate him to fight! His “family” makes him want to work even harder!

Please hear me, I’m not just saying this so you can say, “Wow, what a great family!” No, my point is much more important. I think it is a great formula for others going through storms. Not every situation allows for the same level of support or even warrants it. But, to whatever degree we are able and allowed, I promise you our family will continue to support each other through the crisis. And #TeamJustus, I would encourage you, to consider trying to do the same thing. Remember, storms are coming… it’s just a matter of when.

And if I could just come back to the community conversation for one minute. These last few days have highlighted an important dynamic in how we support each other in crisis. If you follow college athletics, then undoubtedly you heard about Steve Sarkisian and his issues with alcoholism. I’ll speak especially of the Christian church, but I hope all of you will consider this thought. Right now, generally speaking, we are quick to support (prayer, practical help etc.) people that have “approved” prayer requests. For instance, if you ask for prayer for a car accident, most people will rally to your side. If you ask for prayer for a dying baby, you are guaranteed to get huge support! But sometimes, people need prayer for things that aren’t quite so “approved”.

I’m not a big USC fan and I’m even less a Steve Sarkisian fan. But I promise you, I prayed for Steve today, because he’s sick. Someone once said the church is the only army that shoots it’s wounded. Our family had to deal with the scandal of unwed pregnancies, and I’m a pastor. Recently we prayed with a young woman dealing with the realities of being bi-polar and the struggled of depression and suicide. Unfortunately sometimes when “those” kinds of prayer requests come up, the community can scatter. Not because of some malicious reason. Often it’s just because we don’t know what to say or to do and quite honestly it makes us uncomfortable. I have a friend that used the phrase he wanted a church where he could “hurt out loud”. That should be the goal of community… a place where you can hurt out loud.

Yes there are times those people closest to you may need to hold you accountable for being a knucklehead. But in the middle of the storm, what most of us need is someone willing to pray with and walk along side us through the crisis. Remember, God doesn’t rank our sin. He loves us in spite of the messes we make and when we ask for forgiveness… He forgives. Can I challenge all of us to do a better job of stepping up with those folks in our community that share “unapproved” prayer requests? Just because you love on and pray for Steve Sarkisian, doesn’t mean that now you condone getting drunk all of the time! It simply means you’re trying to live your life the way Jesus modeled for us.

So #TeamJustus, never take for granted the community in your life. And make sure you are being the community; others in your life need you to be. I believe it will pay dividends with those you are supporting (like for Justus) and I know it will impact your life. So please keep praying faithfully for Justus and the rest of the requests on #TeamJustus (Prayer Requests). We love you and appreciate you.