About a dozen years ago our girl Jessica almost died. Her digestive system shut down and it looked like she was slipping away. In God’s providence, at almost a point of no return, her system began to respond and she pulled through. Since then, we have read and understood Philippians 1:24-25 in a different light. After the famous “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” statement, Paul says, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”
Since then, we have realized that Jessica’s ministry is “showing up.” For her, to go be with Christ would be far better. But she is needful for us, for our progress in the faith. And with every passing year we see this continue to be true.
Jessica continues to have a wordless, silent, unspoken witness. Her presence speaks, sometimes prophetically (forth telling the truth we don’t want to hear), sometimes more gently (reminding us of things our comfort wants us to forget). For example, I had a mother at my school talk to me recently. Their family had visited our church a while back. Some weeks later, talking to her 5 year old daughter about where they might worship, the little girl said, “Can we go back to the church where Miss Jessica goes?” The mother was not sure who or where her daughter was talking about. But after a while, she figured out that she wanted to go back to church where Jessica was. She could have described the church in any number of ways, but for this young soul, it was where she saw Jessica.
But here’s the ironic twist, and where Jessica’s presence is most needful. Though young children are often curious and want to talk and ask questions, to most young adults (and many older adults), Jessica seems virtually invisible. Jessica is almost 30, probably about the same age as the biggest demographic of our church. Yet when we sit in the church lobby, the 20- and 30-something population walks by, almost to a person not making any eye contact with Jessica or whoever is sitting with her. No conversation, no greeting, no nod of the head and smile — usually nothing. And this is precisely why she is needful for our progress in faith. She reminds us that we are broken, that life presents profoundly difficult questions and situations. Questions and situations that don’t get better and don’t go away.
I believe her presence creates discomfort for the comfortable, reminds the outwardly whole and healthy that we live in a broken and unhealthy world. She embodies who we are spiritually. And granted, for many of our young, upwardly mobile, entrepreneurial post-moderns, they simply have never encountered a Jessica and don’t know what to say, . . . so they say nothing. And that’s why she needs to keep coming to church. To quietly remind us that we are profoundly broken before a holy God, that we are helpless to help ourselves, that this world is not our home, that the prospect of heaven and wholeness is a good thing.
That’s quite a ministry.