How Can You Love God Whom You Don’t See?

I write this reflection somewhat reluctantly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I don’t have anything to say, a fact my wife Dawn would easily confirm. Rather it’s because I’ve learned the hard way that my life and its fullest purpose are not about me.  It’s ironic that when we live as if life is not about us, we get the fullest life and when we live as if it is all about us, our lives are emptiest.

When I’ve strayed from this truth and let my life pursuits and strivings become all about me, I’ve inevitably been brought crashing back to this truth.  For whatever reason, as difficult as it has been for me to learn this, the beautiful thing is that God has always been there for me when I return.  The Bible says, “We plan the way we want to live but only God makes us able to live it.”  This has been the truth of my life.  Which begs the question for each of us: will you choose to live life only as big as you, or will you live a life as big as God’s dreams for you?

There is a quote I love, and it’s been both wisdom and a constant reminder for me in life “God made us in His own image, and we keep trying to return the favor.”  When I read this, I wonder if it was written just for me (LOL!)  While I long to see and know God in my life, I recognize that I can’t unless I depend upon solely on God.  You’ve got to ask yourself, how many ‘God moments’ have you missed because you tried to control God by limiting Him?

Have you ever heard the saying “The proof is in the pudding?”  It’s quite a strange idiom.  Can a pudding eater find some sort of evidence in his or her serving that testifies to the character of something else other than the pudding? But it’s meant to suggest that the real worth, success or effectiveness of something can only be determined by putting it to the test, by trying it or using it, just as the best of a pudding is to eat it.  In my faith journey I’ve found that God wants to do wonderful and amazing things in my life but that is only possible when I commit fully, as if there was any other kind.  As Fr. Dale said this week in his sermon, commitment means no exceptions = none or else it’s not a commitment, right?  Anything less than full commitment is being a fraud to God because you either ‘are’ or ‘you aren’t’ committed, there is no in between.

When I’ve surrendered without exception to God, God has led me to a place in my heart that assures me I am loved, safe, fully alive – a ‘promised land’ if you will.  It’s a place full of God’s embrace and a place of God’s image not mine.  When I’ve not lived this, I’ve led myself to a ‘desert,’ a place of regret, remorse, and disappointment.  By no means do I want to suggest I’ve mastered this but when I’ve got it, I’ve experienced glimpses of a divine ‘kingdom’ that are moments of God’s Power and Love.  I believe this is what Jesus meant in John 10.10 when he said: “The enemy has come only to steal and destroy, but I’ve come to give you life abundantly.”  Steal what? Destroy what? Well, I believe, it’s as simple as the stealing and destroying the times we could have seen and known God in our lives by limiting God to our own image, denying God the revealing of His Love and Power.

It reminded me of something that Mother Teresa said at the National Prayer Breakfast some years ago that has stuck with me. She asked, “How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?”  Her words really got me thinking. So, loving and seeing God comes in our act of loving and seeing our neighbors for who they really are.  That sounds like a point anyone who wants to love God shouldn’t miss.  It also helped me realize that when I got this surrender part it’s undeniable God’s Presence was with me.

Like the time in Kansas City when we spotted an elderly African America woman broken down by the side of Hwy 435 in an area of town that was known for carjacking and other undesirable outcomes.  Like so many that zoomed right past her, I saw her there and was prepared to zoom right by her too.  Instead, I hit the brakes and said ‘dang it’ (Midwest term for ‘oh my gosh’ – you get the idea) I need to stop.  I changed her tire as freeway traffic taunted me and when I was done, I went to tell her, and she was in tears.  She looked at me and thanked me over and over. I was so afraid I’d be stuck in this part of town.  Then she opened her purse, held it out to me and said ‘here I want you to have all of this, take it’.  Well of course I told her I was not going to do that and suggested she put it in her church offering plate next Sunday.  I had no idea how much this lady had been in fear and how such a simple thing could mean to her when I was willing to trust in God. This was really something small but to her it was huge!

Or the time a young man was on steps of our church in Washington. It was a cold day. Overnight a rare snow had fallen, and a covering of white was everywhere. As I approached the church early in the morning from a distance, I could see something heaped up by the door.  I thought someone left a piled-up donation of clothes. As I got closer, I could see it was a man, a homeless man snuggling close to the door to catch the small hint of heat that seeped out under the door jam. I approached cautiously, not sure of what to expect. I shook him a few times and he awoke from a foggy slumber. I invited him to come into the church and out of the snow which he eagerly did. His name was Corbin. This would be the beginning of a long relationship with Corbin.  His trust took root and it grew. He became one of the first members of Recovery Café, an organization that out of acceptance and love has helped so many people find long term recovery.  This simple act of kindness recreated in him a desire to lean into God, something he once had, but along the way had walked away from.

Or the time I received a call about a young lady caught in sex trafficking. She had escaped from her pusher/pimp and had been held up in a motel and she feared for her life. She asked me, no begged me, if I could help. I really had no idea of what I was getting into but I went down to meet her.  She was scared to death; her pimp was circling the area with his posse looking for her whom he labelled as his property.  Emaciated, strung out and unable to trust anyone, we debated about the means to get her out.  She wanted to start life anew – she wanted to get clean – she wanted to stop being used as a prostitute.  She wanted to go back to Minnesota to her father where she would be safe. The irony of this did not escape me.  After much texting and calling, her father drove out from Minnesota while she hid in her hotel room as the ‘posse’ circled the area looking for her. As I look back, I know that only by her surrender fully to God’s will did she make it back home, and only through my surrender did I have the guts to be the means to her new life. I’ll never forget all the tears when father and daughter met for the long trip home.

Jesus changed the lives he met in his life; it’s important as followers we don’t miss that point. As followers shouldn’t our lives do the same?  He has given us everything we need to follow His example.  That means to me to not ever let go of what’s possible and live in surrender to God, so God size life can be revealed to us and through us to the world.  Jesus’ life and death proved to us that our best life is lived when we live for others.  Remember the proof is in the pudding – tasting, experiencing what it’s like to live this way.

I pray my life will have more experiences where I feel the arm of Christ around me!  To me Recovery Café has become the amazing proof of the hope and healing possible when we commit to live for others, with no exceptions. In the Cafés I’ve been a part of I have seen it before my very eyes; lives are transformed, families are reunited, the hungry souls are fed, the blind see new life, those paralyzed by trauma and mental health issues are set free.  Through it all we meet Jesus in those moments!

Love to you all, God has created an amazing place at PWC!