There’s a lot of truth I haven’t shared because I haven’t figured out how to package it. A lot of truth doesn’t fit well into tidy blog posts. It’s too messy for that kind of thing.
Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the loose ends of my life out of the picture, sometimes literally (hello, Instagram) and sometimes by hiding behind the guise of curating my life, behind the lie that half the truth might be more beautiful than all of it.
I think God wants to shine light into the dark corners of our lives, not pretend they’re not there.
I like to imagine God’s light as blinding, enveloping and other-worldly bright. And I believe it is, and will be. But sometimes, on some days, it feels like a little flame flickering under my breath.
I can see it, but barely.
I want to write about that little flame — the everyday, in-the-thick-of-it, not-so-pretty truth of it all — even if it’s flickering. Writing about it is taking in the oxygen to make it stronger and brighter. It’s an act of defiance against the shadows, refusing to hide in the darkness. It’s an invitation for you to sit with me around the glowing and growing fire.
It might seem small now, but it’ll keep us warm.
Megan and I moved to San Francisco in September to serve as missionaries in the inner-city. That’s a Christian way of saying we’re doing work we believe God created us to do even though we’re not sure why and we’re not getting paid for it.
We live in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is full of people living in poverty, not just financial but spiritual. They’re ignored and eventually forgotten. Other people walk around our neighborhood, not through it. Sometimes I want to walk around it too.
This afternoon I walked by a guy scraping crack off the sidewalk and another standing in a growing pool of his own urine as he relieved himself on the side of a coffee shop. There are smells to this neighborhood: waste and pot and, sometimes, laundry.
It’s tiring. Every day I think about what’s on the bottom of my shoes.
We’re here because we think God is here, shining light in this darkness.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out on the streets at night doing one of the things we missionaries do: serving hot chocolate. It’s cold here, so it’s nice to share something warm and sweet with people who have nowhere to go but the soiled sidewalks, no one to talk to but themselves.
The steaming cups are invitations. They’re a way of saying, “I’m here, I’m listening — do you want to talk?” Sometimes people just want a drink, and sometimes they want to pray. Sometimes they cuss at you as you walk away.
On this night, I served hot chocolate to a man slumped against his apartment building. I introduced myself and shook his leathery, cracked hand. He told me story after story about how he’d been forgotten. I could hear the raw frustration in his voice as his tongue stumbled over his pent-up words.
I put my hand on his shoulder to say, “Me too.”
I think the man knew he wasn’t meant to be forgotten. Slivers of light shining into his life revealed a bright and warm Truth beyond the right-now reality of his dark corner.
One of my favorite lines of Scripture is the one where Paul tells us God’s unseen attributes are clearly seen in Creation. Sometimes we forget we’re Creation. We are His workmanship, His poetry. It’s nice to know a sunrise declares the glory of God, but I think He can also be found in our deepest pain and most hidden weaknesses, if we choose to look for Him.
God doesn’t cause suffering, He redeems it. He doesn’t shy away from our grief, He weeps with us. God with us. God rescuing us.
I prayed with the man before I left. I don’t remember what we said, but I know God met us there, around our growing fire.