Seeing the Unseen

I’ve never wanted to stay in America. It was bad enough when God pulled me out of the ministry in Alaskan villages. I came to the Midwest with a silent understanding that I would stay just long enough and then… I could leave. Basically, I forgot that when I tell God, “We have a deal” it’s beneficial to get the Divine Head Nod before I start telling people God and I have a deal.

I am currently surrounded by a subculture of Christianity which puts a million-to-one emphasis (*slight exaggeration, but you get the point) on reaching the Nations. That means leaving the Bible Belt of Indiana, in case you were wondering. When I came to the Midwest four years ago, I chanted (metaphorically) with the best of them. I’m in one of the most churched towns in Indiana. Do ministry? Here?!  In this town? But why? How?

Reach the Nations? Yeah, no. Not here. Its not… Um, I don’t know. Its just not… It just lacks… something. I’m a missionary transplant. You don’t take a missionary out of the trenches and put them in this town. That’s uncalled for, isn’t it? I could do so much more in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Africa… Anywhere! What the heck can I do here?!

After I came back to the Lord in 2010, I started saying that, “God has called me to the unseen.” Before you freak out and think I meant I saw demons, no, that’s not what I meant. In reality, my just-off-the-press experiences as a closet-Christian had made me well aware of how easily struggling Christians and/or ostracized non-Christians fall between the cracks. I found myself drawn to the people ignored within the churches, rather than the high profile challenge on the street corner.

But still, regardless of that perspective, I wanted (and only saw) those people if their skin wasn’t white. Ironic, no? Talk about wrong-side-out racial conflict. I’m not proud of that.

God hasn’t been subtle in calling my sin into the spotlight. When I strive to “see the unseen,” how dare I put weight in one person’s spiritual healing over the other? If God has called me to Indiana, how dare I tell Him its not good enough because the Culture Shock isn’t as easily identified as it would be if I was in a place like Guatemala? 

Recently I saw pain so deep, it shook me to the core. As I bit back tears and the all-too-familiar feeling of Spiritual Warfare, I caught a glimpse of the street sign my companions and I were passing. I was entering into Warfare, and I was in Indiana. I could feel God whisper, “Loving people is what I made you for” and I was in Indiana. 

Americans, we are no longer steady on our feet when it comes to ministry. If we send everyone to the enthralling and exciting zip codes, we have no one for the people still wounded within our churches here. Be passionate for your neighbor directly across the street just as much as you’re passionate for the concept of feeding orphans and living in grass huts. 

Don’t take as long as I did to figure it out. The souls being ignored here in America are still important.

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Disappointment, Anger, or Love? 

Quiet disappointment is the epitome of what breaks my heart. I’m familiar with angry eruptions. With those reactions, my next move is quite literally to get out of the way and attempt to calm the person down at a distance. I don’t pay attention to the cause of their anger, but focus on fixing their reaction. Though my attempts to make peace can be fear-filled, it’s easy enough. 

But with quiet disappointment I’m drastically aware of my failure, and my reaction is based heavily on wanting to restore fellowship. It has very little to do with fear and everything to do with correcting a wrong. I may possess peace during those occasions of righting a wrong, but it’s dreadfully hard to claim. 

For the last day or so, I’ve had to mull over the difference between feeling the anger of God and feeling His broken fellowship and disappointment. It’s not a joyful occasion to stand before God and only have one thing to say: “I know full well I broke Your heart. I put You second in line to my attempts at control.” 

It’s so much easier to picture God as an unemotional, tyrannical Lord who deals with my sin with outbursts of anger. With that approach, my attempts to seek forgiveness become mechanical: Throw a few sacrifices of praise His way, sing peaceful songs… 1, 2, 3, thanks for forgiveness, I’m out the door. 

However, I’m fully aware that He is an emotional, fellowship-seeking creator who deals with my sin as a father dealing with a rebellious child. With that, I’m deeply reminded my sin disappoints the One I love most. My sin caused a rift in our fellowship with each other. 

My sin did not, however, erase His love toward me. Despite that glorious truth, healing still takes time. Anger screams, “You’ve done Me wrong!” Disappointment cries, “We need to fix us.” 

Christ constantly asks us to rebuild what our sin has torn down. He never promised total healing would happen overnight. But above all, He never leaves us to restore our relationship alone. 

His disappointment in our sin feels heavier because He’s weighing our character, not our deeds… But His disappointment is proof that He believes intimate fellowship is still possible. 

His overwhelming fellowship-seeking love proves He has called us to so much more.

Afraid of Jesus

Every one of them could tell I had money. Every one of them vied for my attention to get the quarter, 50-cent piece or dollar I might hand out haphazardly as I walked the streets of Toronto alone. On occasion, the men and women I made eye contact with were obviously psychologically impaired and I started praying even harder for wisdom and the ability to see past potential danger. 

I had $200 in my purse. I could’ve fed all the people I ran into that day — including the ones that had the pride to hide under leaky stairwells from tourists like myself. I’m a mainstream redneck from Alaska, though. I’m well aware you don’t hand money to homeless people. You don’t tell your life story to homeless men just to get them to laugh for two minutes.

But then.. There was Alex. 

As all of his cohorts spoke loudly and jostled me through their three feet of sidewalk, Alex just sat there. Watching. When I got close enough to his corner, he quietly muttered, “Please? I need food? It’s been three days. Three… Long… Days.” He couldn’t have been more than 18.

Before I knew it, I had gotten down on his level, pulled him to his feet and pushed him gently towards the McDonald’s a stone’s throw from his spot. As we reached the counter, I told him to order anything he wanted up to $40.
He ordered a Bic Mac meal. At his small request, I found myself choking back the offer to take him home… As I paid for his meal, I did something I promised myself a long time ago I’d never do. I handed him the change. I heard myself scoldingly tell him, “… You use this on alcohol or tabacco, Dude, and I promise you… Just, don’t, okay? Be different. Please. Be different.”

“You’re the nicest (he probably meant dumbest and most naive…) person I’ve ever met. Thank you, Lady. Thank you so much.”

I was too overwhelmed with the hopelessness in his eyes to be a verbal evangelist at that point. All I muttered firmly was, “It’s not me. It’s Jesus. It’s just Jesus.” I should’ve stayed and talked to him but I couldn’t… 

I couldn’t sit and talk because the look of fear on his face when I said Jesus’ name was incredibly unexpected. The name of Jesus gives my life purpose. To Alex, though, when I said Jesus, he shrank away with white-sheeted fear. He stopped saying thank you. He stopped making eye contact. He just… Stood there. Shaking.

In order to save his dignity and because I couldn’t fathom his fear, I walked away after I squeezed his arm affectionately. But the only questions going through my mind were questions I now pose to those of you that call yourselves Christians:

What have we done to make those we don’t understand believe that Jesus is Someone to be afraid of? What haven’t we done in order to quell their fears and magnify truth? What do we need to do differently?