One of the gravest threats to the North American church is the deception of power - the deception of being at the center. Those at the center tend to think, "The future belongs to us. We are the shapers of tomorrow. . . . We have a track record of success." . . . God very often is working most powerfully far from the center. Jesus is crucified outside of Jerusalem - outside - with the very cynical sign over his head, "The King of the Jews." Surprise - He is the King of the Jews. . . . Who are Jesus' brothers? The weak, the hungry, the immigrant workers, the economic outcasts. . . . Who is mostly in the company of Jesus? Not bishops and pastors! The bishops and pastors are the ones who suggest he's a lunatic! Who enjoys His company? The ordinary folk, so ordinary that their characterization is simply this: "sinners." ~David Zac Niringiye, Anglican bishop in Uganda
Yesterday, I found myself saying to the two neighborhood teens, who were gathered around our kitchen table on their second cup of coffee, that I wished I was in a different season of life so I could be more present for the action downtown. That sometimes, I wished I didn't have the kids with me all the time so I had the freedom to do more of the things I like to do.
The Republican National Convention is in Cleveland this week, and part of me, although I wouldn't be in it for the candidates, felt a little like I was stuck at home with the children. It would be interesting to be down there, meeting people, taking pictures, and experiencing the drama firsthand. It's an exciting time to be a Clevelander.
"Why don't you just get a job, Miss Jacqui?" one of them piped up.
Well, for one, I'd probably end up paying my entire salary to a daycare,
I thought to myself.
"I could..." I said as I placed a pair of shorts on top of a now teetering stack of boy clothes. It's laundry day, and they've been keeping me company as I sort and fold. The clothes used to live on the small couch in our family room in various states of completion, but lately with the amount of neighboring kids around, I thought it best to have more seating available and have since moved my piles to the kitchen table. The logistician in me theorizes that it would then have to be put away by dinner, so we'll see how that plays out.
"But then I'd have to pay for someone to watch these guys all day, and there's a lot of them. Maybe I will when they're all in school someday... Before we had kids I had a job. I used to be a social worker."
"Yeah," I say with a smile. Noting the spark of curiosity, I tuck that away for a future conversation.
When you're knee-deep in the ordinary and sick of trudging through the mundane, folding it up just like you did yesterday and placing it in a pile, it's easy to fall into thinking that what you do on a regular basis isn't significant. And that by default, YOU aren't significant. That you don't matter as much as the next guy with the exiting life or the public display of talents.
Suddenly, it feels like the prayer teams infiltrating the city are making a bigger difference because they're in the center of it all. They have literal hands in the game. And I'm missing out. Because taking pictures excites me, as does writing stories and communicating truth with a dose of perspective, so wouldn't I almost be more useful
I said to Ben the other day that we needed a third rack just for cups because there have been so many these days.
He said that's because I insist on letting the entire neighborhood drink coffee.
But today, as I sit at the same kitchen table over another cup of coffee, only this time with a child whose behavior prevented him from participating in the fun events of the day with the other kids, I'm cherishing the reminder that
we serve a God who does His
at the margins.
It's so like us humans to want to put the importance at the center. To want to put
at the center. But the center is a place that only God should be.
I'm thankful today that He not only sees the scribbles around the periphery of the paper, outside the border of the red lines and probably written hastily on a diagonal, but He speaks most mightily there. That He reserves the nuggets of truth the author or teacher deemed paltry for those on the outskirts. That He is closest to those whom society views as insignificant and works accordingly.
So that cup of coffee with the neighborhood teens that wander in from the streets? The ones whose parents could care less where they are, the ones who get bludgeoned with four letter words as soon as they get home? That cup of coffee - the one that comes with a safe place, a home cooked meal, and welcoming conversation - could make all the difference in their life today. Maybe even tomorrow.
I'm amazed that Jesus chooses to keep company with us ordinary folk, us sinners big and small. That He can be the center of the most mundane lives, and in being so, that those of us on the margins can walk with Him.
If you find yourself on the margin of life today, I hope this is encouraging. Because God does His best work there.