They all had an attitude.
I could see it in the gratitude they expressed for one another and the recognition of each community members’ unique and unrepeatable hearts and gifts.
I could see it in the way each missionary gave their mission trip visitors their complete attention.
I could see it in the intentionality of their conversations with their friends on the street.
I could see it in the dignity with which they treated every Lunch in the Park guest.
They gave every person they encountered the freedom and space necessary to be who they were, feel the emotions being triggered, express their experiences, and grow at whatever pace they needed.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until one of the Christ in the City missionaries shared Dietrich von Hildebrand’s definition of reverence on the first day of our spring break mission trip: “leaving a being the space it needs in order to unfold itself.”
An attitude of reverence. That’s what I witnessed every missionary living out in all aspects of their lives: with their friends on the street, with each other, and with God. This realization and its application to my life have yet to leave my heart.
During my time on the streets with Christ in the City, I recognized that I too had reverence. I was able to encounter, listen, and receive with patience and mercy the people on the streets with whom I came in contact as well as the missionaries and mission trip crew. I wasn’t expecting them to do more or be more. Just being present with who they were in the moment was enough. It was surprisingly easy to have reverence for them. To just allow them the space and time they needed to reveal themselves to me as they were.
However, as I reflected on my own life I realized how often I struggle to have reverence for myself, especially in context of my relationship with God. I often get frustrated at how my heart continues to struggle with the same things, and it seems like I should be “over them” by now. I get stuck in the lie that a less-than-perfect me isn’t lovable, and God is probably tired of hearing me ramble.
But the truth is, He is not. Just as it was my pleasure to receive the people I encountered at Christ in the City with gentleness, patience, and compassion, the Father delights to sit with me and hear all about both the joys and brokenness of my life.
In other words, the Father has perfect reverence towards me. The God of the Universe does not impose or force Himself or His will upon me. Rather, He gives me the space and time I need to unfold my heart to Him as it is.
The Father reverences us, so we must reverence one another. Just as He is so content to receive us in all our brokenness, imperfection, and weakness, we must also be willing to receive the people in our lives with that same receptivity. And when we do, just as our Father does for us, we will be able to give others the gift of being loved just as they are.
This may seem like a small act, but in a world that does nothing but set unrealizable expectations on us to earn our worth, it is actually one of the most priceless gifts we can give. On our own, we are not able to love in this way—so it will actually be the Father in us who allows us to see beyond what the world sees, love with His love, and open doors for people to meet Him.
Morgan is a FOCUS missionary at University of Nebraska Omaha. She has served with CIC in our Summer of Service Program as well as on Mission Trips. She enjoys playing card games, watching This is Us, and cheering for the Huskers!