Still Waiting for God

I have no idea what else she said.  It was one of those prayers where one sentence stops you cold. You wish you could just hit the brakes on the prayer and contemplate for a bit; but instead the pray-er keeping truckin’ down the road and you find yourself left at the curb, gazing into the pearl you discovered.

She said it in the middle of a lovely prayer in a lovely home in Orange County, as 20-25 of us joined hands around the bounty in our midst.  “…And we thank you Lord for once again providing us a beautiful meal,” prayed the woman of great faith from Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), “even as we are mindful of those around the world who are still waiting for you to show up in their lives today.”

That juxtaposition took my spiritual breath away.

There we were, encircling the trappings of our invulnerability, but those “still waiting for God to show up for them”, on the edge, without a net—they are really the ones with faith.  Faith is what you must have when you don’t already possess what you need.  Let’s admit it: for us, faith is usually optional, something that kicks in when a loved one is sick or some situation is beyond our power.  For the poor, exercising faith is as daily a regimen as my morning stretches.

Will God show up in their lives today? And if another day goes by where they feel forgotten by God, will they still have faith enough to ask again tomorrow?

Rich Stearns in He Walks Among Us, his new devotional book with wife Reneé , tells the story of driving away from an earthquake-ravaged village in India when a desperate mother ran up to the window of his car, holding her young son—who had no feet. In the chaos, Rich’s driver kept going, but Rich couldn’t get the boy out of his mind, despite the thousands of other faces and needs he’d seen there in Gujarat. He felt personally compelled to find out more, and some weeks later the staff found this boy whose legs had been crushed in the quake.  Rich gladly wrote a personal check for the boy to get the prosthetics his mother couldn’t begin to afford …a whopping $300.  Three hundred dollars to change his life for years, allowing him to go to school, help his mother at home and begin to make his new way in the world as a double amputee.

The boy’s mother in all likelihood had watched Rich’s car drive away, the son in her arms feeling heavier by the minute as the adrenalin of hope drained away, and felt once again that God had not shown up for her.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” even Solomon the king admitted (Prov. 13:12).  And not simply deferred; this mother must have felt that hope had just left her behind, wheels kicking up a cloud of spurning dust in its wake.  Hers was a desperate hope, of course: the only way out that she imagined was for Rich to whisk her boy away from her; a stranger, but one who may have seemed like royalty from her vantage point.

It’s a story with a lovely ending. And it was a reminder to Rich that desperation and poverty have a face, and a name (Vikas), and that we each can make a difference in individual lives.

But it’s also a reminder that even behind the sometimes sterile statistics of victims harmed and beneficiaries helped—whether in India, Haiti, New Orleans or now the Philippines, there are not only real faces and real stories, but real people clinging to hope, with faith enough to keep waiting for God to show up in their lives today…like the women in this short video report from a Philippines relief operation last week..

I said earlier that, for those of us with means and safety nets, faith is mostly optional, reserved for family and friends in crisis and times when we feel powerlessness.  But that depends on what we think about and pray for, doesn’t it?  If our prayers and our vision are large enough, they are always beyond us; we are always powerless.  When we seek to see the wide world as God can see it, we become aware that only God can heal it.

And if our hearts and prayers are willing, God will even recruit us in doing just that.

I’m thankful to know people like you: willing to be part of the answer to the prayers of those still waiting for God to show up today.

Happy Thanksgiving,

PS: This year as we gather around our own bounty, I for one plan to repeat the words of her prayer.

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