Handprints and Burnt Soil

Last weekend, I went home for a few days to help my parents prepare my childhood home for sale. Since I moved out of that house 13 years ago, I’ve lived in 8 different homes. But that house alone has my 5-year old hand print set in the cement of the garage floor.

Soon that house will be emptied of everything familiar to me, and little besides that hand print will remain to mark that home as mine.

Of course, there’s also the dead spot in the side yard where Daniel Graves and I set ablaze our first batch of homemade napalm in fifth grade. I suppose I can always claim that small bit of barren land as well.

Small hand prints and scorched earth. This is what I’ve left behind.

I get to spend a good amount of my time sitting with emerging adults who have left their own childhood homes, seeking independence, education, and new experiences. As I listen to their stories, I can see both the small hand prints and the scorched earth in their lives. I see the evidence of parents, mentors, siblings, teachers, youth leaders, and friends who loved them and cared for them. But I also see the places where new growth has become nearly impossible due to deep hurt. For both kinds of marks, those of love and those of hurt, there is often a story about their experience in the Christian Church.

In Matthew 13, when Jesus talks about the different kinds of soil that the gospel encounters, he doesn’t mention burnt soil, but I’ve found that leading a ministry with young adults in the Pacific Northwest today has made me familiar with it. You’ve undoubtedly learned to recognize it as well – perhaps you see it in others, perhaps you see some of it in yourself.

Burnt soil needs to be healed and restored, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by that task. In professional ministry, it’s always easy to focus elsewhere, on the “low-hanging fruit”, the people who require little of us and make us feel “successful.” Jesus tells us he came for the sick, not the healthy (Mark 2:17), but we too easily mix up our priorities.

Lighthouse, like a growing number of churches today, has become a place where burnt soil can begin to be restored and produce new life again. It’s a place where small hand prints can mark emerging adults as loved, embraced, and welcomed.

I believe that this is a necessary part of the Church’s own healing process- seeing the scars we helped create, and learning how to be the hands of the Great Healer, as God places new hand prints on us as well. Thank you for your prayers and the gifts that keep this community thriving at Puget Sound.