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All Things

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome  it.  John 1:3-4

There has been an increase of gang activity in our neighborhood.  It is alarming.  It is foreign to me.  It is unpredictable and irrational.  It keeps us on edge throughout the day, primarily in the afternoon hours.  They have assaulted two of my friends/neighbors, both of whom are white males and both go to our church.  They have been sighted throwing rocks at an older man down the road and this week, apparently, beat up a woman and her 7 year old son.  The two are ok, but reasonably traumatized.  The reason for such assaults?  Power, position, prominence?  Are they more corrupted than kids on the north side of town?  Are their hearts more wicked?  On one level, it would seem obviously so.  Yet biblically, no one is righteous, not even one…apart from Jesus.

I interacted with three of these “fellas” in an unplanned encounter on my own last Friday night.  After returning to the neighborhood cook-out with them, I ended up spending the whole evening eating dinner with them in what honestly felt like a dance of mistrust and diplomacy as each of us tried to size up the other and at least for the moment attempted some sort of peace treaty.  The fear that their world view introduced to me wasn’t fully realized in my internal workings until they had departed and I began to process the experience.  The questions multiplied.  Who am I in relation to them?  What in the world was I doing trying to navigate relations between a former member of “the bloods”(a neighbor who I’ve quickly come to love) and forming members of “cryps”?  How did they get there, to that view of people and life that is so self serving and so disregards the existence of anyone who can’t help promote their lordship?  And in that question, I found our common story.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Gen. 3:6

Just like these neighborhoods terrorists, I too want to take what is good, what is pleasing to my eye and what will give me an advantage over others.  These kids have become their own God, deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and determining to rule over others with violence and destruction rather than to bring life and see their environment flourish, as God intended His image to do.  This is the course for me, too, on a daily basis when I surrender to my demand to rule and reign for my own glory.  I may not physically whack people over the head with tree branches or guns, but my own words and attitudes can be just as hateful and dark, oppressive and life sucking.

What is exhausting and wearisome and overwhelming is that in both cases, my heart and theirs, I am powerless to effect change in either.  I can’t yell righteousness into either one of us, I can’t threaten it or beat it or arrest it or force it in any effective way.  I cannot breath life into dry bones, replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, give sight to the blind or hope to the hopeless.  I cannot create a program or system or response that will effect this desperately needed change in both of us.  But Jesus can, has and will.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  Acts 9:3-5

It is God and God alone who can change hearts, who can interrupt our plans, who can transform thinking and radically change the course of history.  I am only able to lose sight of this when I think with enough strategizing, research, expert opinions and understanding I might be able to do so.  So it takes a circumstance so far out of my league, out of my experience, out of my grasp to turn my eyes, heart, hope and tight grip from human help to the God of the universe in whom all things hold together and apart from whom nothing exists.

In the meantime, I long for a five star hotel where I can relax, feel “at home”, turn my mind off and not always have one eye opened as people walk down my street, unknown cars drive slowly by or groups of kids in their teens make their descent on the neighborhood after 3pm.  In the meantime, I found myself crying after being at a friend’s beautiful house today for a wedding shower filled with beautiful girls and enviable accouterments.  In the meantime, I long for the familiar and the pretty and the life of privilege that I once considered the entitlement of adulthood.  In the meantime, only Jesus can offer this restfulness of genuine peace, the beauty that comes from His presence and the familiarity of One who made me, knows me and is committed far more than anyone I know to making all things beautiful in His time.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Luke 23:31-32

The sadness and the weariness and the burden I have been walking around with the past two weeks isn’t because God’s Kingdom is far away or not coming.  What I found myself sad about today was really just that I want to be back in Buckhead, in a magazine home, with my kids back in private school and my social life returned to topics that make me feel like an insider, capable, strong and in control.  What I really want is for my kingdom to come, and to come now. What creates the unbearable dissonance is that the culture I feel plopped down into without any bearings feels in stark contrast with the environment of material beauty, social currency and experiential privilege that I assume is my right.  I am trying to get back to some “Garden” of my own making which has little to do with God’s Kingdom, but a great deal with my own.  Feeling out of control is scary, miserably uncomfortable, angering and sad.  And in these moments, I tend to have absolutely lost touch with the fact that He is always in control.  The story His Word tells from Genesis to Revelation of His creation, the corruption of that creation, the redemption and promised glorification of the creation is perfectly compatible with this particular scene in the grand story He is telling.

‘Now get up and stand on your feet.  I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.  I will rescue you  from your own people and from the Gentiles.  I am sending you to them  to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’  Acts 26:17-18

There is no brokenness, wickedness or rebellion outside of the reach of His arm or that in any way exists apart from His will.  All of creation, from Cain to Pharaoh to Saul who became Paul, tells of His goodness, commitment to restoration, patience, kindness and faithful presence.  Might I turn away from the mirror and look to Him for help and change, to His power to do what is humanly impossible?  Could this be the season of life when I begin to actually call upon His power to bring sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, reconciliation to the irreconcilable, strength to the weak, humility to the proud and faith to the faithless?  Might I begin to desire His Kingdom more than my own immediate yet ultimately unsatisfying one?  This too is impossible for me, but with God, all things are possible.

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