Maybe you know how this goes. You have the kind of week when the clouds roll in.
Someone gets the flu, there are executive orders that wound your heart because they will hurt people you love and people you don’t know, and the dermatologist finds more to cut off of you, even though you don’t even get the joy of weight loss to go with it. There are confirmations that make you weep and cuss, and your friend clutches her lacy red big girl panties as she fights for her life in the hospital. And in the mean time your cat finds out how fun it is to bring in a mouse house guest for a play date but then EVERY SINGLE TIME loses interest, leaving you with a guest you must usher out with a broom even though you just want to stand on a chair and holler about it. And then Spring comes even though IT’S FEBRUARY because the world has gone berserk and the trees and bushes break into blossom and you can’t breathe and you hack your way through the night until your husband says that he loves you, but it’s 3:42 so could you please take some cough syrup and turn the television down? And you say “NO WAY, JOSE. SOMEBODY’S GOT TO STAY UP AND WATCH THE WORLD COME TO AN END.” So then your husband pats your head and says “Okay then. Thanks honey.”
So what do you do next?
Apparently if you’re me, you stop doing everything that is good for you.
You stop going on walks, because, duh, POLLEN! And then you comfort yourself with banana milkshakes from Cook Out because bananas are a fruit so there’s that. And you take a break from blogging– you break your own steadfast rule that you’ve kept up for over a year (and many years before that.) You stop cold turkey at the writing that you do because you’re rotten at prayer and focusing on finding clues and signs of God and then sharing about them keeps you connected and fed. No matter, you stop all that. Everyone needs a break now and then, right? So, you want to go to Cook Out?
And then, lucky for you, something happens.
You read a passage of scripture because you’re planning to share it with children, and God whispers it into your own ears, sending it like warm honey straight to your heart and soul and brain. And you REMEMBER! You remember who you are. You remember the passage and you see again how God has taken care of you- of all of us who try to follow God, by giving us a list of instructions- A LIST!- of how to let God bless you. Really. It’s a list of who to hang out with and learn from and follow in order to find our way home to God. When I read the list, I remember the people who’ve lived and breathed the instructions to me. Take a look at it and see whom you remember.
First: Find people who are at the end of their rope and park yourself next to them. Find someone like Rhonda, the homeless mom I got to know years ago who was busy getting back on her feet. Rhonda’s struggles reminded her that she depends on God. It’s interesting. Self reliance will win you awards, but if I focus on how high I’ve pulled myself up by my bootstraps, crediting my impressive intelligence, sparkling personality, and fist fulls of money (ha!) I can forget how much I depend on God. When all that disappears, boy howdy, I remember. That’s when we can find God hovering close.
Second: Hang out with people who have lost what’s most dear to them and have been in pain because of it– whether they’ve lost their homes or the love of their life and/or the life they always expected to have. That’s where God hovers close, even though the pain may be too great to see it yet. Their hearts are broken, but God is at work, soothing the tattered edges, mending and sewing through the numbness or hemorrhage of memories, the pulses of pain as new cells grow. Hang out with this person. Watch for God there.
Third: Find people who are humble- not those who are always saying, “Aw shucks, it was nothing,” and then watching to see what you say next, but people who actually recognize they’re just ordinary people, made by God, no better and no worse than anyone else. Look for people who understand that everyone else is just as much a treasure in God’s eyes as they are. So when you surprise yourself by doing something that turns out terrific, you think, “Yay for me! And yay for God, that I could be a part of this!”
Fourth: Find people who are so hungry to serve God, to be where God is, to find God in others, that it’s hard for them to be bothered by anything else. Now watch out here… you’ll find plenty of people who are hungry for American God or some other God they’ve created in their minds- a god who cares just about one culture, one group of people. God cares for the whole world, every single person, no matter what. Don’t get confused.
Fifth: Find people who care too much! Find people who refuse to stick their heads in the sand, but walk around ready to dole out mercy, whether people deserve it or not. This is how Jesus does it- read the Bible. It’s in there. Watch their compassion flow, witness their forgiveness, even when it’s tough and doesn’t make sense. Hang out with this person. Learn from this person.
Sixth: Find people with hearts so pure that it makes others shake their heads. Look for those who are still open to wonder. They’ll see God and experience God where others won’t. Kids are great for this. Find them. Learn from these people. They’re not just miniature adults. They’re gifted this way.
Seventh: Find people who are not living (hiding?) in peace, but who are knee-deep or neck deep in conflict, getting their hands dirty, shaping peace out of something that looks like mud. Make yourself stay beside them, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Learn from these people.
Finally, eighth: Find people whose commitment to doing what God requires (to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God) makes others angry enough to make their life difficult. Stick with them because God is near. Hang out with these people. Learn from these people. Be these people.
So YAY! We have a list to go by, people. (Thanks, Matthew 5.) And we have a God who cares about us, even when our natural tendency is to let ourselves slog into the darkness where we can eat banana milkshakes and wait for the world to end.
Thanks for reading this. I’m feeling better already.