“Not all those who wander are lost” – JRR Tolkien
I felt utterly and totally lost. On top of that, if I didn’t have a smartphone with navigation, I would be literally lost. So many want to be freed from the confines of set hours, set tasks, but I yearned for them. I need the lines so that I know where to colour in.
A couple of weeks ago, I set out for one of my work mornings in the city. The purpose of these mornings (which Jonathan and I take on rotation whilst the other stays home to do school with the kids who are not yet in a school) is to get out in the city - to walk, to pray, to listen, to learn. And faithfully I would do so, but feeling more and more lost. Where Jonny was getting amazing insight into how the past and present of the city is interlinked, and a feel for God’s heart for this place, I was hearing crickets. Sometimes it’s difficult to not compare with co-labourers.
But this morning was different. After weeks of feeling very disconnected in my personal devotion time, I had connected with Jesus over Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
What are you doing here?
It seemed that all of the sudden I had the very obvious revelation that I was new here. That was something I was already painfully aware of. But there was a clarification for me: I was new here, but Jesus was not. I was so worried about what I was supposed to be doing, how I could start, what I could give, that I had overlooked the fact that he is already at work here.
I don’t actually need Jesus to tell me what to do, I need (and get to) discover what he’s already doing. God is already up to something in Cheltenham. He has been since before its name was first referenced in 803 and since it gained its popularity because of spa waters in 1716. He is already doing something here. Am I here to “start something” or to join what he is already up to?
Now I had some lines to colour in. To discover what he is doing, I pursue what he has already shown me to be good. My eyes were opened to learning and opportunities all around me. I share a few in hopes that they are of some encouragement.
I had a very interesting conversation with a lady named Emily on the street, raising money for Oxfam. I got to hear all about the works of justice that they are doing all over the world. I also heard from a friend about the discrimination they faced upon moving to Britain as a non-white, non-western person. This has given me a new sensitivity to those from other cultures – even though I often feel like an “outsider”, I do not face those sorts of difficulties and would love to be a person who brings peace.
I was on my way to a ladies craft evening that a new friend invited me to when I was approached by Claire. She was in a very emotional state, asking for money to buy Christmas cards for her children, and telling me about her liver disease. As I had no money to give Claire, I humbly asked if I could pray for her. We held hands in the middle of the street and I got to pray the peace and love of Jesus over her. Her intense emotional state immediately calmed. Claire even prayed for me. This is such a small thing, but we are learning that for the homeless or the outcast, looking them in the eyes and treating them like human beings is a very merciful thing.
I also met Maggie during the daytime in a little alleyway you take from the High Street to a grocery store. She was moving very slowly down the middle of the walkway. If I hadn’t been looking for opportunities for justice and mercy, I probably would have missed her in my hurry. But I stopped, looked at her, and realized that she was clutching a white cane to her chest and was moving her feet very slowly and carefully. Maggie has such severe short-sightedness that she cannot see where she is stepping. She is not blind in that she sees light. Although she lives alone and is mobile, she has had a hard time navigating an area of road works on the High Street. I got to escort Maggie through that area and learn about her childhood and life living with the disease that has stolen almost all of her sight.
This is inevitable for me as I am constantly having to ask people what they just said or what it means. It’s difficult because I don’t like being the person who is useless and unknowledgeable. I don’t like being an outsider; being an alien means that you are always an outsider. I know that years from now I’ll still be asked if I’m “on holiday” in England.
But it also means that I humbly step out and offer myself for whatever needs to be done. This week I started helping out with the crew for a theatre production going on this weekend. This meant drilling dozens of holes in boards because that was the only thing I was useful for, or “footing the ladder” (I had to discern the meaning of this the first time they said it) which meant steadying the ladder for someone doing the actual work. What a joy, though! If I get over myself and how I have no idea of half of what they are saying about the lighting and the setup, I get to participate in putting together something beautiful and fun for the community to attend, even if it’s just a teeny part of it.
What about you? Maybe like me, you are needing some lines to colour in, or perhaps you are one of those gifted individuals who can move without the outline – either way, how do you see these themes of justice, mercy, and humility playing out specifically in your life?