[This appeared first at LifeChurchNC.com]
November 10, 2017
As I sat in my chair yesterday evening reflecting on the day, the word dichotomy kept coming to mind. The day started with spending my morning constantly choking back tears, taking in this indescribably beautiful scene at Isenberg Elementary School where folks from our church family and community joyfully interacted with children, washed their feet, and fitted over 350 of them with new socks and shoes. The day concluded standing in front of our church building with several leaders from our Collide Ministry taking in the sounds of helicopters and sirens, the flashing of emergency lights, and some of the worst traffic congestion I’ve ever witnessed in Salisbury – all the result of a bank robbery and high-speed chase up Jake Alexander Blvd. that ended in the death of the alleged perpetrator.
The dichotomy was between the life, acts of service and overflowing joy that started the day and the death, acts of violence and unsettledness that seemed to end it. As I was sharing with a friend this morning, that’s not the ending I would have written nor chosen to conclude what started as such a beautiful day. It would have been more along the lines of sitting with my family and some friends watching the sunset and reflecting on all of God’s goodness. Instead, around the time of sunset, an armed robber, whose motives we may never come to understand, likely glimpsed at his last sunset before walking through or fleeing the doors of a bank.
While sitting over breakfast with some friends this morning, one of them pointed out an unsettling yet comforting Scriptural reality that I believe captured the day well, and something I believe would do us all well to keep in mind; something that has served to bring my heart peace following yesterday’s chaos right outside our doors. And it was this…
Jesus was in all of it.
That should not be taken to say that Jesus was behind the chaos; but I believe He was most certainly aware of and present during all of it. He was in the tears of joy as well as the tears of loss and confusion.
An interaction I had before heading home served to emphasize this truth. While standing in the parking lot preparing to leave yesterday evening after having cancelled NiteLife due to safety concerns, Collin Denton noticed the sound of a crying baby. We all got quiet and listened, and began to hear the sound of children across the street in the parking lot of a vacant building. After a few minutes, the sound became more predominant than all of the other sounds around us.
As I drove out of the parking lot and crossed Lincolnton Rd., I pulled into the empty lot across the street and met a single mother with four children (2 under the age of 3) who had spent the last hour outdoors in the cold waiting at the bus stop for a bus that most likely wasn’t coming due to the road closures. I asked her if she’d allow me to take her and her four children home, especially wanting to get the kids to a warm, safe place, while also assuring her I wasn’t some creep and that I was the pastor of the church across the street (which probably caused her to think I really was a creep!). A few minutes later, I dropped off those sweet children and their mother at their home and then headed toward mine.
Last night I sent Collin a message thanking him for hearing that cry!
That’s what we’ve been talking about for the past 6 weeks in Exodus – God always hears the cry. Right there in the middle of all of the heartbreaking tragedy and darkness on Jake Alexander Blvd. last night was the cry of a family who was completely unaware of what was going on around them, who likely hundreds of cars had passed by, who we almost missed while standing out in our parking lot – but who Jesus had been aware of and with the whole time.
All evening I had struggled with this sense of helplessness wanting to do something but unable and unsure of what to do besides help cancel NiteLife. While I don’t presume that God left this family sitting outside for an hour so that I could meet a need and in doing so satisfy my feelings of helplessness, it reminds me that the same God who heard their cry was hearing mine. He was and is present in it all, bringing light to the darkness, help to the helpless, hope to the hopeless, peace to the chaos, and healing to the broken. Because He is the God who is indeed working all things for good to those who love Him… (Romans 8:28)
Redeeming things to Christ.
Although we had to cancel Nite Life (our monthly gathering for College Students and Young Adults), leaving us with lots of food, I am so proud to say they have already been in touch with emergency services today and will be making 50-70 plates this evening instead to distribute to those who serve our community. That’s what working with Jesus to redeem the world we live in looks like, and that’s beautiful!