“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Ponytails, yoga pants, and cups of coffee in hand. We were ready to hear from the LORD and triumph over this thing called life. Our souls aching and doubts lingering from years of seemingly unanswered prayer. We all knew there was only One Hope and Escape from all of this, but none of us seemed to be experiencing the freedom that His tattered body brought us years ago when He was nailed to the cross. It’s difficult to understand everything about your Saviour when you’ve never seen Him. It’s tremendously difficult to believe everything He says when you’re all alone. There was so much unknown hurt and fear sitting in my friend’s two-bedroom apartment this weekend when the three of us watched a conference from Austin, Texas called the IF Gathering. #IFGathering
The whole basis for this conference was “If Jesus is real, then what?” If Jesus isn’t just some fairytale, crazy story, or super humanitarian, then what? It reminded me of Nicole Nordeman’s song, “What if.” It seemed to fit the theme of the conference.
What if you’re right?
And he was just another nice guy
What if you’re right?
What if it’s true?
They say the cross will only make a fool of you
And what if it’s true?
But what if you’re wrong?
What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?
We heard from so many amazing speakers with wisdom beyond my years, but I’m not here to spotlight these women, because I know that’s not what they would want me to write about. God’s kingdom has grown so much bigger because of the work these women have done. The hungry are actually fed, the orphans are being taken in and shown love, women in sex trafficking are being shown that they are not a number, and they are worth far more than anyone on earth could ever pay their pimps. When I start to think about these absurdities and disgusting circumstances all over our world and right under our noses, I start to tremble. Why? I start to tremble, because I’m really not doing anything about it at all! At all! I’m not lifting one finger for God’s kingdom. He tells us to feed the hungry. He brought me to a city where sometimes (if I’m being honest) I still kick and cry about living in, but it’s a city with hundreds of hungry people holding little cardboard signs. I try to ignore every person, though, because God surely doesn’t expect me to actually feed every single person in Baltimore. But why not?? If God is real, why can’t this happen?! It only starts with one thing, right?
I am so furious with myself for living in my little box of hurt and not looking at the world of hurt around me. I think that I can’t take care of others, because I’m having a hard time healing my wounds right now, but what if this is exactly what my soul is longing for? Is this what Jesus talks about in His Book? Is this how my soul will find rest this side of eternity? Is this the peace that Paul and other Biblical authors and modern day missionaries have found?
Baltimore isn’t a city for the faint of heart. People question my husband and I on a daily basis of why we moved to Baltimore. My answer is because we could afford a house here. It’s cheaper to live in Baltimore than the other counties around us. But what if that’s not the reason. What if there’s more than just a simple numbers game happening here? What if God strategically placed us here? Is that such a crazy thought? He placed us here in a city of hungry people, crying babies, single moms, drug dealing, crime infested streets, and very few Christian circles. I’ve been longing to move back to the south. Back to my safety. Back to the streets that don’t have a person with a cardboard message on every corner. Back to the streets without much traffic, low crime, more “love,” and more churches.
We joke about first world problems so often. The jokes are funny. They really are. One that happened recently – my husband ate off of one plate and placed his plate along with his fork in the sink. He still had a bowl of bananas to finish, but went to the silverware drawer for another fork. I questioned him, “why are you getting another fork? You just had one.” His answer, “Well…it’s wet now.” We laughed about it and summed that up as a first world problem. Because if that is our problem, we surely have too much. We are worried about a wet fork, and hundreds of Baltimorian residents are worried about where to sleep tonight. Is it going to dip below freezing? Am I going to get hypothermia? It’s been such a cold winter that the homeless have been battling frost bite. They have had to have their fingers or toes amputated, because they didn’t have anything or anywhere warm enough to stay. I think about the cold and I grab one of my 10 sweatshirts and the warmest blanket I have. Why have I not been concerned about people sleeping on the streets? It makes me sick to think about how wretched I have been. I haven’t lifted a finger. I try not to even look at them while driving past them in my warm car. I have been dehumanizing these lovely people with cardboard words.
What if I began to help the hurting? What if we all began to help the hurting for Jesus’ namesake? Then what would Baltimore or your city or a third world country look like? One of the women at the IF Gathering said that a burden is born from the intersection of hope and despair. What is your burden? What do you passionately care about? Who do you want to help? What makes you sick to your stomach? What causes you to stay up at night? This conference was exclusive to women, but I challenge men to think about this as well. Break free from your circle of comfort. It will be scary. I know it will be, because I’m scared just thinking about where this journey may take me and what will be asked of me to sacrifice. I’m scared of not knowing and not seeing a plan, because I like plans!
Pray. Be specific in your prayers. Become more in tune with hearing God’s voice as inaudible as it may be to you. Find a group of Christians that can help you along in the race and ask hard questions; not just sit and giggle with you over coffee at brunch every week; not just study the Word with you; but actually act on what Jesus commands us to do. Go feed. Go comfort. Go clothe. Go love. Go hold. Go cry. Go listen. There are too many needs to stay seated in your oversized chair under your monogrammed blanket.
What if you took one step? Then what?