My third and final word to describe what I’ve learnt this year was the word WANTED. This word first came from an urban mission exposure trip to Melbourne that I was participated in as part of the program I did this year. Over a very full-on 5 days as a group of 15 we attended 4 very different church services all within a space of 24 hours, and then spent the rest of the trip walking the streets of Melbourne and asking the questions ‘what do we know of Truth?’ and ‘what is God up to here?’ It was a very challenging and eye-opening experience to see the ways that society tells people that they are unwanted, to see the walls and boundaries that we put up that exclude others.
Over the course of the trip we also spent time in small groups reading through, discussing and reflecting on the parables that Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven. In particular I was struck by the parable of the labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). That although the landowner only picks a few workers at a time he ultimately wants them all, so by the end of the day he has picked (and pays) every single worker who was waiting in the marketplace and wanting to be picked. The landowner didn’t exclude any of those willing to work, simply because of differences in strengths and gifts, the landowner wanted all of them. In the same way, I see God like the landowner, wanting all people to have access to the Kingdom of Heaven; all are welcome and wanted. It made me think, might there be people in the marketplace who, at the beginning of the day, aren’t ready to work but simply curious, but by late afternoon are ready and willing to work? And might there be some other people in the marketplace early in the day who are ready and willing, but are ignored, and they eventually give up and walk away and leave? How are we helping His Kingdom to be present now when we instead give people the message that they are unwanted?
I do think that this may be a word that I will forever be trying to understand, but I have learnt that to be wanted means to know that you are of value or worth to someone, and that we are valued and wanted by God because of our identity as His child. And I continue to be challenged by the idea of how we are letting others know of their own worth, because of their own identity as a child of God.