I Have This Friend ….

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…usually, we start stories with the above epithet when we want to talk about something personal, but dread the scrutiny that accompanies the revelation of some piece of ourselves. We are all so … self-guarded …aren’t we? It’s refreshing to find people in our lives that open the doors of their hearts and don’t fear to give us admittance.

Yesterday, in church, we had such an occasion. And “old” friend came. He and his family are investing and anticipating a huge move that changes the way everything in their lives looks. He was there to invite our congregation to walk along side them as they take this huge risk … opportunity … however you look at it.

In the process, he revealed things that brought him from point A to where they are now. And then, he began to tell stories of where he personally had come from, his story and how God had given him chances and experiences and how those things had led him to where he was now. He then brought in the idea that fear keeps us from so very many things. I could see him listening close to the “voice inside his head” before he spoke.

He encouraged those listening to take away this thing: True faith can be defined by whether or not at our core we believe and accept this one thing:

God loves me.

Looked at initially, this oversimplification of faith could be analyzed and broken apart and thrown to the curb. But upon deeper exploration, he is right. What do people struggle with? Is it the externals? The “shoulds and should-nots” that tend to define our perception of ourselves and others, but do little to define what’s inside? I know people will argue with all of it. And I’m still working through a lot of it in my own head.

The question hit me. I’d had a horrible morning. Nothing life-shaking, just little piddly things that frustrated me and pushed me over the edge little by little by little. I began thinking how this simple question … do I believe God loves me … does lie at the foundations of what I think, how I perceive, what I know. Like I said, it’s a place I’ll be revisiting and not a place I want to talk about today.

But my friend, in his self-revelation and exposition on various things also showed me something else. He’s leaving for a mission field, taking his beautiful wife and adorable children and going to a foreign land. But he’s not your “traditional” type missionary (and anyone who has spent any time in the evangelical movement of the church knows what “traditional” missionary means). It’s not my place, nor do I have time to explain all that’s different, but I did think there was an interesting slant to it all. But the fact that he is gambling his entire being … all that is important and precious to him … on this opportunity to open doors for people in these countries to, in their own way, experience God and share the story to those people important to them.

I have two young friends, both of whom were in service yesterday. Both of whom have ties and inclinations toward the area of the world my “old” friend is traveling. It’s interesting to me how things line up, and how coincidences ring true with hints of the supernatural and divine appointments. Both of these young people were touched by the words my friend spoke. Both, I believe, sensed a bringing together of people for more than the superficial happenstance that was the service yesterday. What it all means remains to be seen. But there was the ever-so-faint smell of temple incense, something holy and unseen, that surrounded the things that happened around me.

I don’t know. While it may not make a lot of sense here, in my head it does.

There’s this praise song that came out a few years ago. A certain young lady sang it in a choir my kids were a part of, and I always think of Grace when I hear it to this day:

I see a generation
Rising up to take the place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees

I’m not given to “churchy” stuff. I try hard to not trivialize my faith. It’s something I fight hard to maintain, and most of it is very private, experienced in my inner life, because I’ve found what I feel and believe makes a lot of people I love and care for uncomfortable. So when I say that yesterday, I felt it, I don’t say that lightly.

Yesterday, the juxtaposition of the natural and supernatural was palatable and real and I felt like a spectator to something going on of which no man could orchestrate or control. I appreciate this, because often I feel like “the church” (i.e. organized religion) has been reduced to organization and control and man-inspired and desired outcomes. No hype. No agenda. It just happened out of obedience and transparency and willingness and faith — not fear.

It left me with a lot to think about.

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