Do you know those moments when you know that you know you have just experienced something ordained by God, something that can only have taken place because God was in it, He orchestrated it, drew all the pieces of the jigsaw together until that very final one, the last piece which brings about an out of the ordinary experience, an extra-ordinary sequence of events which you know that you know that you would have never lived through unless God had brought it about, unless the spirit of God had drawn you to such a place, at such a time, with such individual?
I have just got back home from one of those moments and I can’t quite get into my normal routine. Something has been added to my being in those moments and I just can’t shake it off. I can’t quite abandon the intensity of the experience I have just had. It was in the midst of those precious moments that I felt the power of God’s love within me burn with such strength. I felt His heart-broken for the lost, the hungry, the outcast of society whom nobody cares to touch or speak to. I felt His passion, his fire, his determination and his redemptive power which is echoed in His word: “I have come to give you a hope and a future”. I have before used the comparison of going out to find the elusive pair of shoes which would fit just perfectly and so comfortably, you would think they had just been bespoke, designed and made just for you and nobody else. This afternoon in a strange kind of way, I found that pair of shoes in the most unlikely of circumstances, in the most unsuspected of places. It was unplanned, unrehearsed, unexpected, and very, very scary, but in the midst of my fear there was a force, a pull to stick it out and not run, to persevere, to trust, to hope, to dream, to see a much-anticipated vision turn into a reality. As I write this I hear these words on my iPod: “Nothing is impossible for you. You hold my world in your hands” and indeed right now I know no other statement to be so true and real in my life.
Almost three years ago now myself and a handful of others felt disappointed, frustrated, constrained, and asphyxiated by the boundaries, short-sightedness and self-consumption of the institutional church. We knew we were not really being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us, not really. The expression “Much ado about nothing” springs to mind. Yes, we were happy, even eager to lend a shoulder to a friend or church member who was temporarily going through a rough patch, but we were always leaning on the comfort blanket of knowing that their perils and predicament would in their majority find a solution, one which would not need much of our involvement and if so, not for very long. Also leaning on the comfort blanket of knowing we would most likely get their admiration and gratitude for being there for them and secretly hoping that they would mention to others in passing how truly helpful and selfless we really were; having the comfort blanket that they are “normal” people like you and me, with no major traumas, tragic pasts or real major threats to a balanced life, which in turn did not pose a threat to our status quo, our cosy existence, our mapped-out future. Yes, we were also happy to give away an image of an intensely spiritual person, as we unashamedly offered to pray for that person, when in actual fact most of us would remember to lift that person up in our prayers only when we have recently spoken to them or been reminded of their need. You see, when interceding on another’s behalf is a God-ordained mandate upon your life, you will need no reminders, no bumping into that person to suddenly become all spiritual again by putting that person’s needs in front of your own, if only for a few seconds.
The problem with many of us, the church-going breed, is that we disguise our selfish attempts to replicate God’s love in “safe” situations that require no real commitment, no sacrificial service, no unconditional love, no high stakes. We are happy to do, to give, to love here and there, but in actual fact it is true for the majority of Christians today that though we are fully aware that the call to Christianity is a call to become radical agents that bring about radical change through the power of Jesus Christ, we are quite happy with settling for half-hearted efforts, empty promises and half-commitments. We are happy to look full of the Holy Ghost on a first encounter, but to be revealed in time as the hope-full merchandise that never delivers, at least not when we are called to be in it for the long haul, with its ups, downs, hot and cold moments, the rejection, uncertain success, possible failure, drawn out drought periods with no acclaim, recognition or applaud.
I cannot, will not continue to identify myself to others as a Christian, until I know that I am indeed following in Jesus’ footsteps of unconditional, radical, all or nothing, no going back, all-consuming, catalyst providing power, broken for the outcasts, the rejected, the violated, the dented, discarded “good for nothing” lepers of today’s society. Out of this call to a radical commitment to the voice of a spirit within me who will accept absolutely nothing but a sincere, consumed heart, a heart that breaths no other than the winds of the Holy Spirit which hovers over me and molds me into the person God designed me to become. Out of this glorious and most challenging of calls came our desire to put our faith into action, to take our approach to church through a 360 degree turn whereby we no longer attend church primarily to fill ourselves with more knowledge, God encounters, encouragement and “brotherly” love, but we take all of those things and the presence of Jesus Christ, all of which already reside within us, out to the souls who are desperate not to be preached at or patronised, not to be evangelised and psycho-analyzed, but simply to be seen as Jesus sees them: people in pain, broken, desperate, hungry, hurting, aching, lost, scared, terrified, disoriented, confused, angry, addicted, and in utter desperate need of someone who will just give, give, give to them without expecting anything in return; without judgement or condemnation, without looking down on them, someone who will give, give, give because Jesus gave it all for them when He owed them NOTHING.