Hi Sweet Friends,
If you were in church in the 1990’s, you may be familiar with the book Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. It was a study on knowing and doing the will of God. One question from that study that I still remember after all these years is this: what work of God does He want me to join Him in? Of course, there is the great commission and other principles of obeying and glorifying God. But what specific works of God in my story and experiences, and the story and experiences in those around me, does God want me to join Him in? Jesus tells us in John 5:17 that He and His Father are always at work. How is God working, and what part does He want me to see, and participate in? I want this to be a reality in my life as I ask God to direct my eyes to what He wants me to notice; to what part He wants me to play in fulfilling His purposes, meeting a need, and glorifying Him. God used some real-life experiences recently to make this abstract thought real to me.
I was checking out at Hobby Lobby recently (of course I was) when a little girl about three years old walked up, looked at me, and babbled something I couldn’t understand. She was adorable with golden curly hair, and I looked around wondering who she belonged to. The clerk was getting my money when the little girl walked away from me and out the open doors to the parking lot. She wasn’t with anyone, and I said out loud, “I think someone just escaped.” No one moved. I ran out the door, grabbed her little puffy hand, and led her back in. I stood there looking around and finally saw who I assume was her grandmother, checking out several aisles over with a worker looking around. The worker took our little Goldie Locks to her grandma, and I went back to my cashier and finished my purchase. I looked around, and no one seemed alarmed; not the cashier, the people in my line, the worker, or even the grandma. I did hear her telling little Goldie as they passed by me, “You can’t wander off like that. Someone might take you.” I don’t think she even knew she had been in the parking lot. I felt shocked and almost frustrated that no one seemed in tune with what had just happened. I kept thinking, “Why didn’t anyone have their eyes on that little girl?” I truly sensed words come to my mind that I knew were from the Holy Spirit saying, “There were eyes on that little girl. I put your eyes on her.” This isn’t a hero story about me. This is a grace story about how God is always at work in everyone’s story, and asks us to join Him in them. Sometimes this happens in obvious ways. Sometimes it’s almost imperceivable. When you notice something that grieves you, see something you can’t get off your mind, or are made aware of a need, ask God if, and how, He wants you to join Him in that story.
Sometimes the call to join in a story is subtle. My son Josh talked to me one morning about being in a parking lot at Panera Bread after getting coffee before work. He witnessed an exchange of two adults and a child that broke his heart. A man and woman in separate cars were passing an elementary-aged boy from one to the other. He said the boy had his arms crossed and looked so unhappy. He assumed it was a shared custody situation, and it was time to switch parents. Josh said to me, “I just can’t get that kid off my mind,” and he cried. I cried as he told me. Why would God have Josh at that place, at that moment, to witness that exchange? Just to break his heart for the day? God broke Josh’s heart for this little boy so that Josh could join God in His story of love and grace for this boy and his family. Josh praying for this boy and me joining him in prayer are part of God at work in this boy’s life. It’s for the boy. It’s for Josh. It’s for me. When we’re asked to join God, we learn more of His grace, His tenacity in coming for us, and His attention to details. He’s not just showing us the needs of others; He’s showing us Himself. It’s for us. God doesn’t need our help. He’s showing us what He’s like and asking us to witness, to be a part of His grace and love story for ourselves, and for others.
Sometimes the call to join in a story is obvious. My daughter Rebecca had a frantic knock on her door one night recently that was alarming. Her roommate and their boyfriends were there so one of them answered the door. It was a young woman, bloody and panicky, holding a toddler. Her boyfriend had beaten her and was chasing her, and she was banging on doors looking for help. They hid her in the house, called the police, and guarded the door when the boyfriend came yelling and threatening. After police, ambulance, and chaos, the house was quiet again. It was a terrifying and heartbreaking experience. Rebecca grieved over that young mom’s story. What on earth would happen to her and her baby? What hell had her life been? Why Rebecca’s door? God had invited Rebecca into this story to play a part for protection and then for prayer for this troubled mom and baby and boyfriend. Rebecca will probably never know what happened to them, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of the role or the invitation.
God is always at work in our story. He is always coming after us in grace and love. Sometimes it looks like reaping consequences for seeking life apart from Him. Sometimes it looks like being rescued from consequences. Sometimes it looks like growing us up through pain, provision, want, longing, joy, sacrifice, or abundance. And what He is doing in our story, He is doing in everyone’s story: offering grace, with an invitation to see His work and join Him in it. Am I willing to do that? What will it cost me? It’s always helpful for me to remember that I shouldn’t expect a story different than my Savior’s. When I feel like something hard is asked of me, I want to think of how Jesus lived when He came to identify with our humanity in the great rescue, of which I am a grateful participant. My heart’s aim is to match my response to His when I’m offered the opportunity to join in. Will I allow myself to be hurt and inconvenienced by others? Did Jesus? Will I sacrifice my time and comfort for the sake of others? Did Jesus? Will I have the courage and selflessness and love to say, “Not my will, but yours”? Did Jesus? How can I accept His grace and refuse to give and speak it into the lives of others? That question helps correct my thinking and redirect my eyes almost every time, sometimes quicker than others.
I would encourage you and ask that you encourage me to pray, “Father, how would you direct my eyes today? Who do you want me to see? What do you want me to notice and then become a part of?” He promises in Hebrews 11:6 that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Ask. That request will grow your sensitivity to the heart of Christ for the humanity around you that He so loves and came for. Your involvement will sometimes be only a prayer. It will sometimes cost you greatly. It will change the faces of strangers into beloved children of God and fellow travelers on this journey home. When I hear the ambulance sirens, I know someone is hurting and scared. There is need. When I notice the woman in the car next to me is crying. When I hear the parent talking to the child in a demeaning way. When I see the young pregnant girl. When the waiter tells me his life story. When someone asks for help. When I notice danger. When I see the fear and hear the loneliness. When I sense the wrong pursuit. When I hear the prayer request. How would God want me to join Him in His story of love and grace in that person’s life? How do I join Jesus in loving those He died for and is constantly pursuing? I want to be sensitive to where God would direct my eyes and heart today. Father, please, don’t let me miss it. And thank you, Father, for including me and inviting me to witness and participate in your great love story.