I get it. November 18, 2011
That was the title to the blog post I wrote exactly 1 year ago. God had just given me a really clear revelation about purpose, specifically about my purpose here in Greenville.
However, the blog post mysteriously never got posted.
wh-what happened?! Did I have a ditz moment and simply forget to press the Publish button?
eh, no. No, actually I had a lot of fear. I was afraid that God really was doing what I thought He was doing, that he had answered my prayers and revealed my direction.
I wasn’t ready to commit to Greenville. My heart was not prepared to truly say, “This is my city and these are my people.” I thought the Kingdom was really happening somewhere else, and to publish this post would’ve held me accountable to other people. as if God didn’t already know. I was arrogant, prideful, and fearful. So typical. It’s as if I look for God, ask God for God, yet when he shows up, I take what I want and brush the rest aside. Um, why does he want me again? He’s pretty good and gracious. that’s why.
It wasn’t until August 25 this year that I heard God speak to me again about Greenville, my city. But that’s a story for another time.
So this was one of those “I get it!” moments that in all reality took a lot longer to “get” than it should have. but whatever.
Illumination happened today. It was a time where in a single moment the oddly shaped erratic puzzle pieces of one’s life come together in this beautiful, sensible design.
The 5 months between graduation and moving to Greenville to start a new job were probably the most seemingly unstable days of my life, bar nun: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 beds, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. In the end, I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be. That, unfortunately, was not part of the plan.
I couldn’t muster up in my mind what would practically be my next steps in life. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was happening. Even in my desires. And it was frustrating because I know I am to live my life on purpose. Vita by Design, right? I honestly felt at one point that the fact that I had a blog with this title was a joke. Nothing seemed purposeful. I didn’t know what to do, so…do I just not move?
Well, I did a whole bunch of not moving for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time.
One September Monday evening, while in Fort Wayne Indiana, out of nowhere a thought jumped into my mind: I need to go back to Greenville.
Interesting. So this new thought spurred me to email Dan, my friend and former shepherding group leader, if he knew of anyone in town that may be hiring since I was thinking about moving back to Greenville, though I really didn’t know why. It was just an inclination (hint hint…HOLY SPIRIT!).
The next day, Tuesday, Dan “happened” to be meeting with the owner of the only company that I had interviewed with in downtown Greenville back before graduation. So Wednesday morning Dan called me to tell me that the owner said that he needed to hire someone soon—come to find out, very soon. I called the owner that hour and talked the situation over. By 4:00 I had accepted the job and was due to start work on Monday morning. 5 days later.
I probably don’t need to express this, but I was obviously rejoicing over this ridiculously quick job provision. How amazing, right? Isn’t that a cool story?
God had bigger plans.
God does not move people to jobs. He moves them to strategic Kingdom opportunites. Jobs are just so this-world.
Though it’s a company with a fantastic reputation in the Upstate, the location is probably one of the worst in Greenville. It is sketchy with an extra healthy dose of sketch.
The first day of work my boss took me to lunch and mentioned as we drove out of the parking lot, “Don’t walk around over here. This is a crack corner.” And where there’s drugs, there’s violence. Not gonna lie—I was often frightened. My elder at church, who is a cop, had many stories to share about that corner. Chases, busts—one time he caught this guy from America’s Most Wanted on our corner.
This week 2 guys were standing right outside our front steps doing a drug deal. In broad daylight. Twice in the past month there were huge fires right across the street behind our building that were started by the homeless. I heard gun shots one morning recently.
I wouldn’t normally tell people all this. But I just wanted to let you know that I had a pretty scary view of the area and tried to be as risk-free as possible.
Yet every day I drove by these people I saw their broken lives and remembered the women I lived with this summer in Betel. That was the potential for these lives too. Yet who am I?
I’ve been reading and dissecting the Beautitudes and just read “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I had to really talk with God about this because I desire to show mercy to these people, which involves building relationships. Yet at the same time I understand the implications, and for a single girl to make any relational advances in a predominantly male culture is obviously scary. I needed help and direction.
The very next day on the way to work the main road was blocked so I had to take my own detour to get to work. Divine intervention? I drove through side streets near my work and saw what I’d never seen before in this town. This exists in Greenville? Broken homes, broken lives. Wow. But, where did I fit in with this?
I went to a party last night and afterwards there was tons of extra food. I saw the huge plate of croissant sandwiches and the thought came that maybe I could take them to the homeless nearby. I texted a friend that does outreach on this side of town to see if she would take me during our lunch hour.
She came by the office the next day and we got in my car. We turned left out of the parking lot and had barely passed our building when she said to turn left down a gravel road. Wait, this close? It’s basically right behind our building.
We parked and walked underneath the bridge. There was a fire pit where three people were standing around stoking the fire. Two people drove in behind us on a moped. To the left there were several tents all along the ground, and at the top the embankment was a row of tents with slits in the sides to come in and out. A single picnic table was in front of us, which is where we set the food. We talked with the few people there.
I knew in that moment why I was brought to this job and back to Greenville. Since last January God had been tearing my heart up over the ones that his heart breaks over. For the broken people. He led me to Betel. An amazing, unique experience. I knew my life was forever changed, yet I had no idea how it would practically play out in my life. I felt this urgency that I would have to come up with something—he gave me the desire, shouldn’t I move forward with it?
He did it. All without my help, my ideas, my suggestions. Within walking distance of where I spend 1/3 of every 24 hour day, I have strategic connection with the broken outcasts of society. Today’s mission. I had prayed for ability to show mercy ministry— and He answered.
Before I asked, before I even knew to ask, he was preparing me.
This. This is the burden that Jesus has put on me, His burden for these people. Every other issue we face (or don’t face, if we’re really being honest here) in our culture of self-centered, materialistic, complacent excess still matters. But this one, about hurting and lost people who rarely receive even simple recognition of their humanity, hurts me, way down deep like a wound that won’t heal. I don’t know why exactly. But I fully understand your heart, Angela. I know what this need looks like, and it’s sickening that so many of us just…don’t…care.
Wasn’t it the point of giving in the 1st-century church to see to it that everyone had enough? That every person knew love and care? And that Jesus’ love was behind it all? When did we become so full of ourselves as to just sit smugly on our big ol’ piles of “God’s blessings” without lifting a hand to those with less? Oh, yeah, at the fall.
Will someone please tell me why having more and more stuff means we’re living better lives? My brother pointed something out this last Thanksgiving that we both found disturbing: we celebrate a day for being thankful for whatever we have, and then immediately follow it with a day that’s all about getting more status symbols. Black Friday is quickly becoming a more revered holiday than… oh, wait, what was that Thursday in November holiday called again? And most of can’t even wait until our meals are off the plates and in our bellies before we’re off to camp out in front of Wal-Mart to have the first chance to take home a new idol or three. Get in there, throw some elbows, and stampede if necessary. We’re bringing home the gold. But if I recall, so did Achan. Just saying. And look where it got him.