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Monday, October 8, 2012

Traveling Small

I have been traveling this week--in fact, I'm posting this from an unfamiliar living room--and I feel the same things I have felt on previous long trips. I have scattered, sometimes vague impressions of people and places, and constant little reminders of God's presence and power in it all.

I guess traveling makes me feel a good way. What I mean to say is that it reminds me of the bigness of the world, and the infinitely larger bigness of the God who created it all.

Of course, if I had any doubts that God exists, I would only need to get into an airplane like I did this time (twice; once at sunset and once after dark), and look down at the great big world peeling off under the belly of the plane, with trees and streams, clouds and twinkling stars scattered attractively across the landscape outside my tiny porthole window.

I even got a chance to spot my own little neighborhood as the first leg of my flight took off, and all the great big nuisances that seem like monumental problems looked like miniature doll furniture from that new-found perspective.

So, traveling makes my life look literally small. It also reminds me the bigness of the world's problems. The first day after I arrived here in south Texas, I was exploring the town, and one of my destinations was a popular (and crowded) public street lined with little shops and restaurants. My host had recommended this area for the daytime, but also instructed me to watch out for vagrants and panhandlers there. I did find them (I think there were around ten in the span of five blocks), and as I pressed forward through the throngs of regular shoppers like myself, I was moved concerning these people.

They were strung out on drugs and alcohol, and some were clearly members of various cult-like religions that deny the true God. The sin in their lives had reduced them to such a point that their degradation was visible to all, but I had a sense that there were others there, in the affluently-dressed crowds, who carried a similar corruption and empty longing on the inside. As I prayed for them (yes, even while waiting for the crosswalk lights), I realized that they were there because they were not ready to hear from their Savior, but that He was also there, waiting for them to give Him a chance to help them.

I felt a hint of the intensity and the urgency and the heart-brokenness of the God who came to save a world full of crowds like this, but who was rejected by many of them. The streets where Jesus walked had the same mix of people, even though it was separated from where I was by thousands of years and miles.  It's the same scene everywhere, but maybe travel shows it more clearly than usual. All I know is that He saw the destructiveness and repulsiveness of sin in such scenes with more clarity than my own eyes can, and yet He had compassion.

That brings me to my next point--I was reminded that I was small because no gesture of mine could really change anything about the way things are, whether I am traveling or home, unless God used it. Only God sees the heart and can cause people to see the truth about Him, and the end result of sin. Only God can rescue the world. If I could ever change anything, it would be because God used something I did to advance His kingdom. Because, well, I'm small and frail compared to the needs of the whole world.

I asked God if He wanted me to do something about what I saw all around me, but all He asked of me was prayer that the hearts of the people would thirst for Him and nothing less (Isaiah 55: 1-2, 6-7). So, I did, even though it seemed like a meager offering. If anyone can change the sweeping landscape of the world that we see from a plane, or reach inside the dark places in the human heart, I know God can.

Today, I'm calling all believers to continue to pray for change at God's hand, because He can. I also call anyone reading this to do what Jesus asks you to do, wherever you are, and however futile it may seem. God can do things with our meager offering, but He needs a willing heart. It's okay to be small, because we know a very big God. We can rest in that.


Thomas said...

I love how much of a different perspective traveling can bring. Definitely helps shake a person from the day-to-day reverie of familiarity... and apathy. Thanks for your thoughts. :-)