The Cry, the advocacy journal of Word Made Flesh, should be hitting your mailboxes this week (its all gorgeous and redesigned this quarter). Here’s a sneak peak at my article on the subject of obedience. If you don’t get The Cry, you’re not on my mailing list. Comment and I’ll totally add you.
The stretch of street from my little house in Omaha to the WMF office where I work is almost 1.5 miles, or 28 minutes walking. As the seasons change, so do my walking clothes. In August, my feet are snug in my sandals, and I continue to sweat at least an hour after arriving at the office. By the time December is ushered in and I’m repurposing my favorite headband to shield my ears from the cold, I can barely remember the sticky feeling of summer.
How quickly I forget.
My quiet trek on one of the most chaotic streets in town wears a path in my heart. I know I pass by three churches (or is it four?), a couple questionable bars, a Mexican grocery store, at least one guy who thinks I’m beautiful and two breakfast diners. Sometimes, lost in thought, I am surprised to look up and already see the incense-and-perfume store to my right or the blinking furniture store sign up ahead.
I am prone to lose my way.
God calls me to obedience. God calls my forgetful, cloudyeyed self to obedience. In our community, we celebrate nine lifestyles in a particular order. There, nestled between “intimacy” and “humility” and a close neighbor of “community,” rests “obedience.” We begin with intimacy. I need to know God to obey God. Intimacy with God leads me to spaces of obedience. God promised to dwell among the brokenhearted1 and said that those who mourn will be comforted.2 I follow God to those places. As I take steps forward, one after the other, I stumble and yearn for obedience to a mysterious God. I am humbled by the pieces of God revealed to me, and I am humbled by the vastness of God. When I forget, and when I lose my way, the people around me help jostle my memory. Together we pick up the pieces; together we remember. My community sees facets of God I have not seen, and they help me know God more and press deeper into obedience.
Eugene Peterson says that Psalm 132 points out the role of remembering God’s faithfulness as instructive to obedience. A collective memory of faithfulness is the foundation for obedience. In the first half of the psalm, the Israelites remember the faithfulness of God by recalling the long and harried history of the Ark of the Covenant: carried through the desert, wielded in war, lost to foreign conquerors and finally recovered by David. They remember the Ark of the Covenant as the sign of God’s presence among them. They mourn the memory of how it was misused by their ancestors as a talisman in battle. And they relive the joy of restoration. The last half of the psalm paints a picture of hope for a new type of community. The first will be last, and the most vulnerable will be at the center of the community.
In May I spent time with our community in Sierra Leone. While I was there, I revisited many of the old questions that knock on my idealist’s door: What are we doing here? What will our small efforts achieve? It is easy to become discouraged in Freetown. The sun is unrelenting, unless the sky is dumping sheets of water during the rainy season. It is difficult for our North American staff to find a place to fit into the culture. It is a challenge for the Sierra Leoneans to find funding to continue working with WMF. The North Americans and Sierra Leoneans working with WMF answer my questions with their lives. Growing in intimacy, they work tirelessly in simple acts of obedience to God, who is close to the brokenhearted. My friend, Noah, who works with WMF, grew up in Kroo Bay, a slum squeezed between the city and the ocean. While I was visiting, I heard Noah say something so simple and yet so easy for me to forget: “God is working in Kroo Bay. With or without us, God is moving. It would be nice if we could help.” So today, I choose to join with God in the work. I choose to obey. I quickly forget, and I sometimes lose my way, but enveloped within my community, I join the movement of God