This fall my husband has been leading our Sunday School class through a study of the parables.  One of his primary exhortations to us has been that we should emulate Jesus by learning how to communicate the Truth about the Kingdom of God to our culture in palatable ways.  We should learn how to tell parables that will resonate with our own generation.  A few weeks ago we had a wonderful dinner with the class, and my husband had challenged each of us in advance to identify or write our own parable to share after dinner.  It was a wonderful evening, one that was so unique to my church experience.  Have I mentioned that I love our church here? 

I’m not good at creating new stories, so I chose to share a parable from my own experience.  Here is what I contributed that night:

It was a crisp autumn Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I had just begun my sophomore year of college, but I was already thinking about the upcoming summer and wondering how I would spend it. I’d never been too sure of what I wanted to do after college, but I’d been told five hundred times that I would need a few internships under my belt before I could do it. So I was mulling over my options.

I have always had an interest in government. Not politics. Government. And I had been anxious to pursue an internship in D.C. to get an idea of whether I could really see myself immersed in the world of public policy after graduation.

But recently I had been sensing that God might be leading me toward some sort of missions-oriented summer instead. It was odd, and I didn’t feel any clarity about it. I just felt that I was moving too quickly toward D.C. But at the same time, I didn’t feel called to go overseas. Many of my friends were making plans and applying to various foreign mission organizations, and I felt very removed from that.

I had decided I would bargain with God. (Always a wise idea.) I told Him that I wouldn’t be able to get a job after college without summer internships. And I only had two summers left. I told Him that He needed to understand how I needed to prepare myself for life on my own. He just listened. But, I continued, if I went to D.C. I would be willing to spend some time doing urban ministry. On the side, of course. I didn’t listen for His response.

The next week I mentioned something to our InterVarsity campus staff worker about how I was thinking about going to D.C. for the summer and wondered if he knew of any urban ministry opportunities there.

He said, “No, I don’t, but if you’re interested in doing urban ministry you should definitely go to Camden, New Jersey, and spend a summer with Urban Promise.” Knowing that his wife had spent two summers during college there, I knew he had an unusual devotion to the ministry.

But apparently, he hadn’t understood me. I was not intending to spend my entire summer doing urban ministry. I was going to D.C. so that I would have something to put in the “Experience” section of my resume. I politely thanked him for his thoughts and walked off.

So back to this fall Saturday. My campus staff worker’s wife had come to campus to eat lunch with me and tell me about her experience interning with Urban Promise. I was really just appeasing her and her husband. I was going to ask the right questions and then not give it any further thought.

We had a lovely lunch, and I enjoyed hearing about her experience. She wasn’t forceful about it at all, and we talked about a variety of unrelated things too. But when we walked back to her car she got out a photo album. Oh no, I thought. I have to look at her pictures from Camden, too? They’re really putting on the hard sell, aren’t they?

It was relatively painless, but then she pointed at one picture and said, “It’s hilarious for me to look at this picture now because I actually had lice when it was taken.”

Lice? Excuse me, is it common for interns to get lice while they’re in Camden? No, she said, but there are kids who have lice and when you’re hanging out with them, it can happen.

Gulp.

I filed that away in the back of my mind as one of the reasons why Camden might not be the best vacation spot for me.

The next morning at church the Missions Pastor was preaching after his recent trip to Kenya. He had spent a few days in the slums while he was there. One day while he was there several of the children were literally hanging all over him. It was becoming difficult for him to take steps forward and it frustrated him somewhat. Then he thought, “What if one of these kids has lice?”

He said that he immediately felt a wave of shame flood over him, as he heard the Lord say to his heart, “George, you have spiritual lice and I’m not afraid that you’ll get to close to me.”

And in that moment, in the depths of my heart, I heard my Savior say, “Rachel, you have spiritual lice. Don’t you understand? People are spiritually diseased, and I wasn’t afraid to don flesh to restore them. I am calling you to go to Camden because that’s where I would be. I’m not afraid to get in where it’s dirty and messy and even dangerous. I dwell in uncomfortable and unsightly places. People living in cities need me desperately, and I am not afraid to walk among them. If you want to be where I am, then that’s where I want you to go.”

And so I went.

And to this day, when I hear about lice, I think about the brokenness of my own soul and the brokenness of others. And I think about how my Savior does not turn His face away at the sight of me, so I should not do so to another. And I think about how He said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such as these belongs the Kingdom of God.”

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