Saturday, April 5, 2008


i like to think a lot of things about myself. i'd like to think i have a pretty even-keeled notion of who i am, what i believe, etc. etc.. i do, however, seem to find myself lately in situations where what i think i know, and who i think i am aren't necessarily who i am and what i know.

so...if one were to peruse my facebook page one would see that my religious views are stated as "i follow Jesus' teaching." i'd say that implies that i know them to a reasonable extent. i do try to live like He did, as best as i can. anyone who knows me know i'm not very concerned with living the way the church says to do it...unless that lines up with how Jesus did. i've got little use for religion and rules that are man-made. so, if i'm gonna live like that, again, i should be able to feel confident in knowing the bracelet phrase...what would Jesus do. uh...yeah...about that?

so i'm riding the bus on wednesday, heading down ashland to the green line so i can go do the good thing of tutoring these really amazing 5th graders in the austin neighborhood. children and justice were always dear to the heart of God, so i'm sure i'm on the right track. only, when we get to the fullerton stop, headed south, the mostly full bus fills up with exactly the right number of people so that no seat shall be left empty. the last one is next to me, and while i gaze out the window, the last woman to get on sits down next to me. no worries. i never hog a seat (see how well i do this life?). so, i'm chilling to chopin on my ipod and i notice the smell of alchohol. or maybe, more accurately, i'm overwhelmed by it. a moment after it hits me, i get a tap on the shoulder. i turn to see a lovely, middle-aged woman who is plastered, hammered, three sheets to the wind, gone. she wants to talk.

she's bright-eyed for her condition and definitely a friendly drinker. she is not intelligible, though, and sounds much like bill cosby's take on drinking and talking. i do get one word from her...daughter. i'm not sure what about her daughter, but she's animatedly talking about her. i smile and nod for about 2 minutes and realize this is going nowhere. i begin looking for the slightest break in the action to put my headphones back on and turn back toward the window. the moment comes and i seize it. she is undeterred.

though i am watching the same scenery i've seen every wednesday for the past 6 months, and have my ears covered, she is is continuing to talk to me. she's bumping into me as she talks, certainly trying to regain my attention. now i am undeterred. after about 5 minutes she gets up and moves to another open seat where she proceeds to fall asleep.

and i am struck with this thought: although i cannot say what He would have done in my situation, the one thing about which i am sure is that He would not have put His headphones back on and turned away toward the window. i have done the one thing i am sure would not have happened. it wasn't because i lacked compassion for her. it wasn't because she disgusted me. it wasn't because i had something to which i was already committed. i just didn't know what to do.

i started thinking about the bracelet phrase and what Jesus would do in my shoes. would He just continue to listen to her blather? would He simply understand it and be able to converse with her because of that? would He just reach out and touch her and say "Be Sober!" and she'd be shocked and awed and fall at His feet? the scenarios i thought out all seemed to lead to one conclusion...He had power that i just didn't have. and then i remembered...

"you will do greater things that these..." or that peter raised someone from the dead, which certainly has to be harder than sobering up a drunk person. or that he walked on water, which might be harder than both of those. that chains fell off imprisoned people. a litany of "powered up" people came to mind and i thought about my supposed connection to that power. or my supposed knowledge of the God behind it all. and i realized...i don't know Jesus anywhere near as well as i'd like to think. i didn't stop and ask for wisdom in what to do. i didn't pray for strength, or for understanding, or for anything really. i did eventually, but it was 6 hours later during a meditation time at church.

so...who knows what Jesus would do. i don't. i'm aiming to find out...or to be more prepared for what comes across my path spontaneously rather than what's planned. i'm not beating myself up for finding out i'm really not all that much like God. i was pretty clear on the gap before this happened. but i do want to follow Jesus' teaching. i do want to treat people like He did. i do want to care for those who are not cared for and fight for the shalom of the see the Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. i'm not content with "oops...guess i messed that up." i do want to know that i'm plugged in to a dead-raising, chain-breaking, sickness-healing God in such a way that He could use me for whatever might need to happen and i'd not suddenly think i was the Pope. i guess the perspective on the gap allows me to move to close it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was very well written Nate. Thank you for sharing what God is doing in your life. It's interesting that I've come to some of the same conclusions over the last three months. I long to see my life be about two things- Jesus and People. I certainly haven't arrived, but I know I'm in a better place towards it. Thanks for these encouraging and inspiring words.