Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 6: Seek the Lord

"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;... For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do no return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
-Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord where he may be found.  One of the temptations that I think affects missionaries, both short and long term missioners, is the concept that we find God best by going away from where we lived before.  We seek God in the faces of those we are serving, in the actions of our lives on our mission.

And you know what?  We find it.  We will absolutely find God in the faces of those whom we are serving, and those who serve alongside us.  God is there when we look.  And because we started looking so intensely for God on our mission, when we need it the most, we decide that God can best be found away from those we know best.  God is found in other places, away from home, away from our familiar environment.

There’s the fallacy.  We find God by seeking, but if we start out by excluding people and places from our seeking, by never looking at those which are most familiar, at the places we know best, it’s easy to decide that God isn’t in the normal places.  We go home, and because we only start looking for God amongst the stranger, we don’t let ourselves see God in the ordinary and familiar home life.  It’s a let-down, coming off of a spiritual high of our mission work.  So we keep going away.  We keep looking for new places to go, new spiritual experiences which will push us to find God again.  And by restricting the God experience to mission trips and spiritual retreats, we cut out other ways of experiencing God, and we restrict the people who have access to God to those who can afford the time or expense of going on these retreats and mission trips.

But the thing is, if we honestly do believe that God is present throughout the world, in all peoples and in all times, then it’s not that we can only find God by going away.  It’s that we’re only looking for God in those far-off places.  God is not restricted, but we are restricting our own experience of God.

It’s another way of making the God-experience safe, by putting the divine away into a box that we think we can control and regulate.  It’s harder, scarier, to say that God is just as present in your ordinary life, when you go grocery shopping at your local store, or hunting for the dishes that your family members use and never return to the kitchen to get washed.  It’s hard to say that God is present in the neighbor who plays music loudly too late at night, or fights with her husband when your kids are trying to take a nap.

It still has to be the goal.  Seek the Lord while he may be found.  Paradoxically, the work of mission isn’t done until we go back home and apply the task of mission to our own lives.  We haven’t found God in the world until we can return and still seek God in the face of the person next to us.  

Margaret Clinch is 28 years old and from the Diocese of Southern Ohio. 
She is serving as a teacher at Easter College in the 
Diocese of the North Central Philippines.

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