This amazing quote comes from a piece by Jamie Manson at the Religion Dispatches web site, and the italicized bit echoes my experience and understanding utterly:
Like Wallis and Claiborne, my partner and I have a deep passion for working with the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. Our commitment to this work does not come simply from a desire for the common good, but from the yearnings of our spirits [italics mine – CF]. I’m a Catholic with a Master of Divinity degree and my partner grew up evangelical and attended a Midwestern Bible college. For us, the margins are a sacred place where we have some of our deepest experiences of “church,” the way Jesus envisions and incarnates it in the gospels. It is in the face of the broken and desolate that we most clearly see the face of Christ. [Again, italics mine – CF]
I’ve said before, though not articulated it fully, that I don’t really believe in the common good. And I don’t. I follow this call because I have to, in order to be true to myself. To live with myself. To be at peace with myself. If that sounds selfish, in a way it is. No one acts without a lack of self-regard or self-concern, even if that self-concern is the righting of the soul by doing for and with others.
And the margins are sacred. They are amazing places where God shows up all the time. That’s why I love doing ministry in cities. It’s the randomness of unplanned and unprogrammed encounters. I never know exactly when I will meet God. When God will meet me.