My friend the Molly Llama just sent me the following, which I love:
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
I guess I spun both topics slightly differently than the young couple with whom I was dining and chatting had heard before. Also, I followed up the Hell thing with something about God’s love. Something in response to the husband’s complaints about the guilt and fear he felt had been foisted on him in his religious upbringing. Something about how I believe God is worthy of our respect—and even our fear—because we all have, in some way or other, disappointed Him. But also something about how we can be pretty sure that, if the Bible’s right and Jesus really is God’s Son, God doesn’t actually want us to go to Hell. He wouldn’t have come down here and gone through all that if He did.
That was when the husband said, “That’s really liberal, you know.”
He meant it as a compliment, and it pleased me, and it also made me want to laugh.
And it also makes me want to cry.
God’s love is surprising in the lengths He went to in order to show it. But if its surprisingness is so rare among certain manifestations of His people that other people don’t imagine they could find it there—shame on us. Shame on me. It’s one thing to talk pretty. I don’t know that I usually love in that startling way.
Later in the morning (which was more like afternoon for them), I called to make sure they were all right. They sounded very bright and chipper, and not as if they had had any near escapes from certain calamity or anything. That was a relief. But I do wonder about these prayer-promptings I get.
They come every so often. You know. You hear stories about people who get this sense of deep concern for somebody they know, so they pray for them and find out later that at that very moment, the person was about to get mugged in a dark alley, but something made the muggers run away. Actually, it happened to my great aunt or grandmother or somebody when their brother was fighting in the War. He's the one sibling of my grandmother's who is still alive.
I get feelings like that--about people's personal safety, or about their marriages or whatever, and I pray really hard, and then I find out that at that exact moment, things were just absolutely fantastic. The most recent and glaring (and I do mean glaring) instance of this personal phenomenon is that one morning back in October, I woke up at 4 a.m. again (for probably similar reasons to today) and suddenly felt compelled to pray for Brian. I prayed and prayed and prayed--and at the end of the week I found out that he had spent that very and entire day with the woman he is now courting, deciding that he wanted to pursue her in earnest. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like one of the bumbling side-characters in the Movie we were talking about last week, who gets to be the comic brunt of dramatic irony--and everybody thinks it's funny except said character. Said character's usual reaction is a skeptical and mistrust-laden view of God and His designs for said character. This is probably another instance of broken-world-itis, but it feels too coincidental for me to believe Somebody didn't orchestrate it.
I don't get why I am prompted to pray for insanely happy people, but my attempt to get it leads me to one of three conclusions:
Given my misperception of my friend's "Jennwith2ns" comment, I'm leaning toward the last one. On the other hand, the misperception generated some pretty good analysis of myself and my relationship to God over the weekend, so maybe even delusional prayers are worth something. On the other hand, maybe I only think it was a pretty good analysis . . .
Hey! It's Epiphany! By which I mean 6 January, the day of the Feast (or whatever) of Epiphany in the liturgical calendar. It's one of my favourite festivals that Baptists don't know about. (I can say this, being, more or less, a Baptist.) My own epiphany for the day was that it is Epiphany. I almost forgot about it--kind of like all the holidays recently.
Anyway, this is my favourite minor-ish festival I think because it celebrates the fact that Gentiles, as well as Jews, are allowed into the Kingdom of God because of Jesus. It's a good reminder to myself not to take that for granted. I think sometimes, in spite of my best efforts at not being racist, sectarian, etc., I semiconsciously imagine that American (Northern or Southern Hemisphere doesn't matter--I'm that open-minded) Evangelicals are the Chosen People. Epiphany reminds me that I didn't do anything (not even be born into a particular race) to get me in--it was an act of God, an act of His grace. Furthermore, it reminds me of the wise men.
The story of the magi is the quintessential clue at the birth of Jesus that He came for everybody and not just the particular ethnic group into which He was born. But there's also this side-detail, which is that not only were they Gentiles, but it's highly likely they hailed either from Iran or Iraq.
I don't really want to get all political here, but I do want to say that I think it's pretty easy for American-Evangelicals-who-feel-like-the-Chosen-People to forget that non-Jewish people from the Middle East, including from countries we have a little trouble trusting, can be chosen, too. This festival reminds me of my Persian and Iraqi friends in London with whom I've lost touch, but who had visions and dreams--epiphanies--of Jesus. It reminds me to keep praying that they find the stable--and the Cross.