Three. The number of shootings in our neighborhood in the last month.
Three. The number of students inside the school room pierced by a stray bullet.
Three. The number of middle school girls I spend time with on Thursday evenings.
Three. The number of times I run each week, giving me ample opportunity to wonder and question and grow soreness in my aging knees.
Questions whirl in my head like a tornado. Doubts creep in like the ants feasting on our dining room floor. Feelings of overwhelmedness hang on me like a tired three-year old.
I don’t have a word for this year. Or God didn’t give me one. However you want to see it. I didn’t write down a single goal. I haven’t resolved to eat better or get more sleep or brush my teeth before bed. I’m not sure those things will ever actually happen, so why write them down year after year?
I am on a journey though, looking for God in all the places. I’ve spent plenty of breaths not looking for him at all, or assuming my plans are his without consulting him. It’s an empty, regrettable way to live.
Sometimes darkness feels so pervasive. Every street. Every school. Every system. But the Word says God fills the heavens and the earth; there are no secret places! He is in our desperate pleadings, our broken marriages, our jacked up relationships, our addictions, our poverty, our foster care system, our nation’s bulging jails. His presence is in each and every dark and unseen place on this broken and beautiful planet.
I want to know what He’s up to in those places.
I want to see the beauty in the faces of the dozens of kids on our block. I want to hear the life in my neighbor’s voice as he greets me in the morning. I want to look with awe at the blue and gold macaws that perch in the tree across the street. I want us all to stand together in the tension of great need and our great God.
My prayer has become “God, show me where you are at work so I can join you there.”
Where are you at work in my marriage?
Where are you at work in my kids lives?
In my neighborhood?
In my extended family?
In this persons life? And that person’s life? And their life?
In my heart?
In the foster care system?
In our justice system?
Reconciling racial tensions in our country?
Among the members of ISIS?
In the Church?
He has dominion over it all friends, but it is so terribly easy to get caught up in thinking we’ve been abandoned, or that sin is just too dark, or that injustice far too systemic, or that addiction has gone on way too long. Those are lies from the pit of hell.
He is here, and maybe, maybe our hopelessness over such situations stems from realizing our striving won’t do the job. Our best efforts don’t yield the return on investment we were hoping for. I’ve come to realize my own method of operating is surmising I might do BIG things for God; instead of letting Him be God and me just do the next good thing He’s put in front of me to do.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
– Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV
He’s here. He’s at work. Praise His name, darkness is not dark to Him. And, praise His name, He is God and I am not.
I want to join him there, in those places where He is already working. It’s a simple question really. There’s nothing profound about seeking God in the midst of our lives and the world around us. It’s just that most of my life I haven’t done it.
People ask me regularly what they can do in their own context. I interpret that question to mean: How do I love the poor/lonely/outcast/marginalized while staying where I am?
My answer is two-part: First, are you sure God wants you to stay where you are? Really sure? And second, Ask God where He is working and join Him there. In the words of David Platt, you don’t have to start a new organization, or write a book, or start a blog. Just make disciples.
It’s really that simple friends. We muck it all up but we don’t need to. Love God. Love one another. That’s the what.
The how is between you and God. And it’s one hundred percent dependent on the where of God. How you love others well will depend solely on where God is already at work in their lives.
So let’s ask Him.