Silence… God, where do you want to use me? Silence… God, what are you trying to teach me? Silence…God, I am a little discouraged and could use some hope right now? Silence… God, are you even there?
Silence. Silence. Silence.
In the height of feeling God’s total and complete absence I was again thrust into church leadership, the only question running through my mind is, “God, where are you?” After ten years of knowing God, the reality of questioning His existence was unsettling, nerve-wracking, terrifying. Where do I even go from here?
Wednesday night came. I was lacking my usual excitement at the anticipation of laughter and questions alongside ten others seeking God. Instead, this Wednesday was a dreaded night. How do I lead people into the presence of God when he has completely deserted me? After ten years, he suddenly decided I am boring, dramatic, too much to handle? He left? He’s hiding? He’s on vacation?
Questions left unanswered, I brought them to two of my co-leaders, sharing in a roundabout way that I think God may or may not have disappeared. But of course, the answer I tried to convince myself of, the answer I had heard in church all my life, and the answer I dreaded would be coming, came: “God has not left you. You’ve moved.” WHAT DO YOU MEAN I MOVED? I’VE BEEN BEGGING HIM TO SIT WITH ME.
I didn’t say that. I didn’t scream. I sat. I listened. I half smiled, discouraged and alone. I was thankful for friends who are so intent on encouraging me; frustrated that sometimes my mental state makes the intent miss the mark. Wrestling with myself and who I remembered God to be, the rest of the group came to join us. Tonight, however, was going to be an outreach night.
My faith level nearing empty, others expecting it full, we piled into 3 cars, drove to Ocean Beach, split into groups of three, and dispersed to pray with people. My heart sank as I was designated the leader for my group. Oh joy! Excuse me stranger. I am empty. Discouraged. Questioning the existence of God. A hot mess. Would you like some prayer from me?
In my last attempt to ask God to show up, I pulled my two companions off to the side and prayed. It was simple. It was honest. It was broken. It was a plea for grace. God, please show up.
We started walking. Three men living on the streets were huddled together beneath an awning playing a game of cards. Amelio, my male companion, approached them first so the three of us would avoid overwhelming them. He asked their names (Christian, August, James), asked if we could join them, asked them their story. PerryAnne, my female companion, and I came over to join them as they shared a bit about their lives.
The dreaded moment came, that moment of figuring out how to not ask the forward, turn-off question of “Do you know Jesus?” yet still somehow sharing God with them. So we said the simple, shut us up if we sound stupid, but we love Jesus and would love to hear your story.
The recoil-defense effect occurred. They immediately threw up the wall of, “We are spiritual, not religious.”
I sat down, leaned in, said, “I would love to know why.”
Their walls began to crumble.
“My family rejected me.”
“Life is the school. Love is the lesson.”
*the other remained silent*
Twenty minutes of honest, authentic, real conversation. These men know God. They pray. They ask Him questions. They feel. They hurt. They love.
Leaving with an offering of prayer, we were greeted by an unexpected yes. “What can we pray for?”
“My family to accept me.”
“More people like you.”
*the other remained silent*
Eyes closed, some open, we prayed together.
They smiled. I smiled.
I had come empty, expecting to be the one that had to bring my absent God to these people.
I left full of grace, realizing they had been the one’s who brought God to me.