The Island of Misfit Toys
A while ago I asked the question, “If small groups are the answer, what is the question?” I was reading the latest text by Miroslav Volf, Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities (a great read), when I came to his essay, “Negative Externality.” The line that caught me was, “Jesus’ ministry, of which the treatment of children is a paradigmatic case, presupposes that persons belong to a community of grace in which others’ fragility and even rowdiness are opportunities of service” (at 64).
I know some big words but Volf’s point is striking as well as deeply frightening. What stopped me to think was the idea that Volf seems to be suggesting that we, who belong to that community of grace (and would that not be all who are people of faith broken down into relatively manageable units we call church?) will be provided opportunities to serve people who are fragile or rowdy, or worse fragile and rowdy.
Thinking about that, what is more frightening is that Volf seems to be implying that there may even be people in that same community who themselves are fragile and/or rowdy. Is that a community I want to be in? or more frightening yet, what if I am someone who gets identified as fragile and/or rowdy? Thinking a little more, if those who are overtly fragile and/or rowdy are removed, gently of course, would it be a better community? At what point does that community lose its standing as a community of grace? Then again, aren’t we all in some way fragile and/or rowdy?
Even though we are approaching summer and thoughts of the Christmas season are far away, I remember that classic animation, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the image that keeps coming up is the island of misfit toys. If the question includes all those in our community of grace who are fragile and/or rowdy (which includes those who are uncomfortable, shy or less than friendly), are small groups still the answer (be it the best answer or the sole answer)?
Let us hope and pray that our communities of grace are not like Santa in the Rudolph animation who is unaware of that island or worse has forgotten it exists. Let us hope and pray that there rise up small groups that are truly communities of grace and transform those islands of misfit toys into islands of safety and compassion.
Be blessed and be a blessing.