This blog has been about coffee and wine. It is about the things I love. It is about the things that break my heart. It is about figuring out when I’m meant to grab that extra cup of coffee and get out into the world, trying to live out my mission to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. Other times, living out that mantra means being still, resting in Him. Today, I stayed home.
I was supposed to go help at the Life Moves Opportunity Services Center in Palo Alto today. These last couple months, few experiences have shaped my mindset around compassion and serving as much as the handful of meals I’ve served there. But, today I needed to stay home.
My mom has cancer. She’s been waging her courageous battle for over a year now. Her strength in the face of this horrible disease, and yet simultaneous trust in God, has been an up close and personal masterclass in true faith. Lucky for me, I’ve had a front row seat my entire life. We got to spend some time with her over the Thanksgiving holiday. The day after she returned, she was being rushed to the hospital (I swear, we didn’t undercook the turkey!). The last 72 hours have been tough. It’s not easy to watch from afar, completely powerless.
I was reflecting today, on a story that Kevin Kim told earlier this week. Kevin and Bea Takasugi from NU2U came to speak to our Mothers Together group for Missions Tuesday. In fact, I had just gotten the news that my mom was being rushed to the Emergency Room, as we were kicking off our morning at Menlo Church. Being there was exactly where God wanted me; their testimonies were both a salve for my battered soul. Kevin shared a bit of his personal story, how he saw the hardships his mother endured as a single mom, running a small hotel. At just 5 years old, he vowed to one day be rich, so he could take care of his mom. He succeeded in getting himself into med school, but then started to feel God calling him into ministry. But, if he wasn’t a doctor, how could he fulfill that childhood promise to take care of his mom? You could have cut the air with a knife when Kevin shared with us the message God had given Him: I’ve taken care of your mom her whole life. Don’t you think you can trust me to keep taking care of her?
I am convinced that this is a moment when we need to actually go BE the church OUT there. We need to get out of the pews and make our faith tangible to a hurting world. We need to drink more cups of coffee and leave nothing on the table. But, even in the midst of the doing, there must be surrender….there must be trust. Do we actually look for God in the midst of it all?
Sometimes, He doesn’t move the mountains or part the waters. Sometimes, He doesn’t say, peace, be still. Sometimes, instead of calming the seas, He comforts His child.
Last Sunday, we celebrated the 1st week of Advent, as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season. I am reminded of the name the angels gave Jesus, calling him, Emmanuel. Maybe, this Advent, God’s calling me to rediscover not just the sufficiency but the beauty of God With Us. Because, let’s be honest….most of us, no matter how many times we paste the calligraphy version of Emmanuel on our walls and Christmas cards, will actually be content with that promise. We want the omnipotent god to change things. We want the omniscient god to reveal things.
Right now, the control freak in me yearns for the God that can heal my mother or end poverty or stop racism. This afternoon, I had planned to go serve the homeless. As I admitted to my husband, going there would be a useful distraction from my worry. And, sometimes, useful distractions are good and productive. But, as the time neared for me to leave home this afternoon, I knew that my place was by my computer and next to my phone, where I could stay on top of things in Chicago. I initially stayed home because I felt like I couldn’t entertain any distractions that would delay my replies to the folks on the front lines of my mother’s care. But, I think the real reason God wanted me home was to sit me down at the foot of the cross…..to remind me through the stillness of this moment, through the beauty of sunlight filtering thru the autumn leaves in the backyard, that no matter what happens, He is Emmanuel. And, today, that’s more than enough.
On Tuesday, Bea introduced us to a story first told on the How I Built This podcast. This episode features Jim Koch, the first Samuel Adams employee. He talks about the difference between scary and dangerous, saying, “There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous and there are plenty of things that are dangerous but not scary, and those are the things that can get you.” He then goes on to give the examples of rappelling (scary but not so dangerous) vs walking on a snowy mountainside on a sunny spring day (dangerous…avalanche!). One feels scary, but poses little real risk – the other feels delightful, but could be life-threatening. Bea connected the dots for us, relating Jim’s story to her own testimony. Only after she left her old life, did she realize how much she’d actually put on the line by playing it safe. Confession: I think most of us, myself included, waltz into the dangerous as we side-step the scary.
It can be scary to trust in Emmanuel…to say, it is enough to know that He is God. Period. But, surrender is truly the least dangerous, most prudent path. The question is whether I can embrace it at such. Sometimes, walking humbly has as much to do with my posture towards God, as it does my posture towards people. Sometimes, God’s mercy is greater in the valleys than the mountaintops. Sometimes, justice by heaven’s scales looks completely different than what a democratic system or American culture could ever deliver.
These last few weeks, it has felt that the pillars holding up my life are shaking; my faith in my country, my religion and even the assurance of health and well-being, have all been tested. After the election, I was completely despondent. Perhaps, it is typical for anyone going through the stages of grief. My tears are fewer these days, as my resolve grows stronger. Now, more than ever before, we must stand up. We must make our faith real. We have to get out of the pews. But, today, I am reminded that serving the world OUT there can never replace or usurp the moments I spend alone with God. Today, I am practicing being still…at home, knowing that I can trust God to take care of my mom….to take care of me. There’s that old hymn that says, my faith built on NOTHING LESS, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness….On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. Maybe, tomorrow, He’ll call me back out to the world….to do something more tangible. But, not today. Today, I stayed home.