All of a sudden, I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. And that is not going to be enough. It won’t suffice to claim good intentions. Saying, ‘I meant well’ is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, ‘Oh, were you serious about all that?’… Am I willing to take the Bible at face value and concur that God is obsessed with social justice?” –Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted
I remember it well, the day I found the words that would start changing me forever. Sitting in my office at Gonzaga University in 2011, an email forward from my boss came up in my inbox with only these words: “I think you would like this writer.” That email was the link to a blog titled “After the Airport” and the author was a gal named Jen Hatmaker. And she had me at her “About Me” section.
In the months leading up to this, God had been putting in front me a whole lot of, well, questions. I had recently read Radical by David Platt and Francis Chan’s words had already been messing with my comfortable Christianity, so when Jen (yes, first name basis, it’s cool) joined that lineup and I read Interrupted and then 7 as soon as it came out, I just felt like I might burst at the seems. Something was terribly wrong with my faith. Maybe not my theology, but my faith; my actual understanding of living out an alive and inspired faith in Jesus. Or maybe it was my theology. I’m not sure, but I knew something was missing.
So I lost my mind for a few months. The poor friends in my Bible study. They sat through rants and soap box moments abundant. They listened to me say “This is all wrong! We shouldn’t buy make-up when children are starving! Do you know how many girls have to have sex with a man they don’t know tonight! Why do three-car garages exist, don’t even get me started on storage units! I can’t eat that M&M, it came from child slaves! We should all be adopting children! We’re missing the whole point!” And because I am nothing if not excitable, I threw away almost $1000 worth of MAC makeup that I had accumulated over the previous three years. Just like that, in the trash. Because I had to do something. I can say in retrospect I may have been a tad dramatic. (But I also had $1000 worth of makeup and only made about $30,000 a year. That should tell you enough about my priorities).
I can also say that four years later, I still don’t think I have this right, this living out of my faith. I have not landed the plane in a place I am totally secure yet, but I am not the same person I was four years ago. The turns in my life have been both sharp and subtle, and it’s only in looking back that I can see a change in trajectory. Y’all, the tension is always thick in my heart; I would just love a formula for being ‘in the world but not of it.’ But I’m finding it is simply one step, one day, one Holy Spirit conviction at a time. And it involves a heavy dose of a lifestyle that is generous, selfless, and maybe, just maybe, hard and sacrificial.
So you can imagine that when my friend, Emily, calls me and says “did you see what the Hatmakers are starting?! Katie, we gotta join them!” (hear those words being said more like a Mexican soccer game commentator than a casual phone call, and you’ll understand), Alex and I were not in need of much arm-twisting. We read about the Legacy Collective, and our eyes grew wide as we saw the focus on helping not hurting, investing in local leaders already doing the things that are working, the commitment to sustainable solutions, and the most authentic desire to just do what Jesus would do if he had the resources that we have. I’m learning that resources are not the enemy, not the sin in and of themselves. It’s our hearts, our stewardship or lack of, our grasp on things over people that get in the way so much. The Legacy Collective is helping me see this even more.
I have so many stories I want to share about the organization that the Collective is currently supporting. Protecting children in Haiti. Keeping families together in Ethiopia. Empowering the homeless in Austin. And a hundred more organizations that members of the collective get to nominate for funding in the coming months. Because the Collective is about doing the work together. It’s about using what we’ve each been given, be it money, time, or talents, to make a difference for real people experiencing real hardship. The Hatmakers and the team they have assembled know their stuff. I am more confident in this organization than any we have ever given money to. Ever. Our resources are going to the people who need them, no doubt. You should join. It’s pretty cool.
So I went to Austin to learn what this was all about, to understand what we had actually committed our money to, and yes, going to the Hatmaker’s house sounded lovely. Two of my favorite things were in one place: justice and Jen. She’s a real life hero to me. And one of the most rewarding parts of my short time in Austin was seeing her life and talking with her and Brandon even for a few short minutes, because they are the real deal. Their public lives are not a show. Brandon cried a half dozen times talking about the work and the people supported by LC. Jen made fun of him. Brandon’s mom talked to us about praying that her son and daughter-in-law would always stay humble and she is so proud that they have. Jen’s dad was the shuttle bus driver. Ben and Remy jumped on the trampoline as more than 300 people filtered in their backyard. It was like they said, “This is our home and our family and we care deeply about serving and you’re all welcome to be a part of it all!” But this was all a bonus to the mission: love God, love people. That’s the truest, deepest cry of my heart and I may fail in a thousand ways at loving the people right in front of me, but after a weekend like the one I just got to have in Austin, I’m reminded with a beautiful new fervor that it’s the goal and the answer to this life abundant Jesus promised us.
Brandon Hatmaker told us that, “The church IS what it DOES.” I love this so much. As followers of Jesus we cannot earn our salvation, and that is such a freeing truth; but a watching world is longing to actually see what we do with that salvation, that freedom for which we have been set free. So let’s do something, and let’s do it well, y’all.
P.S. I have to tell you this: I wrote Jen a note, and I actually gave it to her. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I’ve embraced my middle-school love for hand-written notes. I am what I am. At the encouragement of my friend, Ashley, who was there at the meeting from Atlanta with her husband, I actually said these words to Jen: “I know this is lame, but if I don’t give this to you, I know I will regret it.” And she looked at me and said, “No, not lame. Because I need this, I need the words. Thank you.” I love her.