The Holy Middle
by Ryan Klinck
There is something humbling and sacred about opening your doors and sitting at the table every week alongside the least of these. At Bonhoeffer House (a Missional Wisdom Epworth House), we gather with our homeless, low income, disabled, and homesick (immigrants) friends and neighbors for conversation, meal, and prayers for those who wish to join. I don’t know of any other space in Dallas where such a strange group of people would ever gather together as a family. At first glance, we look like people who would be at opposite ends of the ever increasing divisive climate that we live in. Homeless and Housed. Conservative and Progressive. Straight and Gay. Resident and Immigrant. Disabled and Able body. Yet, while many seem to be running towards one side or the other, more than willing to point their finger and blame those people over there, this strange family somehow holds a holy middle ground.
At Bonhoeffer House, the women and men who come to our house constantly challenge my unconscious prejudices about them and surprise me with their generosity, grace, and love for others. Our low-income friends, who can hardly feed themselves, provide hospitality and bring over food to us, who all have jobs, who live at the house to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and eating well. The man who is openly vocal about how he hates all these “Mexican” immigrants prays for the country of Mexico with Korean immigrants after an earthquake. Somehow the self-proclaimed, proud East Texan conservative man talks with a woman recovering from an addiction about their shared love for an elderly transgendered friend who sleeps nearby. At some point, if you are paying attention, Jesus shows up in the person you least expect and offers an impossibility that you cannot explain that redirects your understanding.
Real people hold impossible things in tension with each other, and will frustrate the hell out of you because they do not fit well into categories. Real people are complicated, surprising, difficult, and wonderful if you take time to walk with them. Real people are the ones who have fallen through the cracks and been abandoned in the middle by those who have retreated to safer terrain. Real people have been lost in the arguments of the far left and right. We cannot be in conversation with our sister or brother human being if we have to shout at a distance to say anything. This reality seems to happen when we create too great of a distance between each other, where we can no longer see humans as “human,” those who are part of our human family.
It seems to me that we need a holy middle, a sacred space where we each can spend time with real people, especially those with whom you disagree with. Time spent in this hallowed space offers a much needed reality check and antidote for our pride. There are bound to be a lot of things that you do and do not like about those in the middle, and that is okay because it is not easy. It is hard and uncomfortable because it is a vulnerable space. The people who have retreated to the edges, that is those of us with the privilege to be able to argue about whether one side is wrong or right, need those in the middle more than ever, because that is where Jesus is, with the forgotten and abandoned middle.