All of us have places and situations we would rather avoid. For some, the dentist chair or DMV tops the list. For others, it may be a difficult meeting, an honest conversation with a friend, or a painful reunion with family. A tendency towards avoidance is often an innate strategy that prioritizes safety and comfort in the present, though often with an increased cost in the future.
As we work with those in ministry, we often meet people who have done the opposite. They have walked courageously into the fog of uncertainty. They have come to call home the places of increased risk and unpredictability that others are trying to flee. For many, this brings discomfort, hardship and pain. Why would a person “wired” to prioritize safety do this?
Scripture speaks to this in the beginning of Hebrews 12. It turns out that many are following the course marked out for us by Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” The incarnation and the cross are a story of Jesus moving steadily towards the agony and darkness—because that is where his light was desperately needed. He knew that beyond the suffering lay joy beyond description. This same conviction is what motivates so many of his followers to step into the struggle, the pandemic, or the unrest. Because these are the places where the light and hope of Christ is needed most, and they trust there is joy on the other side.
These modern-day heroes of the faith are still human, though. Many who courageously rush to respond to the crisis of another struggle with a different kind of avoidance. It is the avoidance of their own wounds and trauma—the dark corners of their inner world chaotically stuffed with pain, doubts, and shame. Here too, the light and hope of Christ is needed. But to enter these struggles would require time, space, and skillful companions for the journey—all of which are notoriously lacking for those in ministry.
That is why over twenty years ago, Alongside was founded. Our retreats provide the time and space for individuals and families to turn towards their own needs and wounds. And our entire staff is committed to compassionately journeying with them as they do. We have found in story after story that a deeper experience of Christ’s peace and joy is awaiting them on the other side.
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