For those new to the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Change“. I thought I’d take this chance to begin processing my time in Guatemala with Lemonade International.
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I don’t struggle with the plurality of beliefs about God. If there is a God, I am quite confident (as arrogant as it may sound) that Christianity is the proper understanding of Him.
Rather, my struggle is with the sense that God is there at all. Many of the posts on this blog have dealt with my open acknowledgment of my “inner atheist” (as I’ve called him several times), and how I’ve tried to deal with him.
I don’t know that I need to expound on this too much, as I’m confident many of the readers here get this already, but just in case: this doubt is not intellectual; it is existential. I often miss that abstract sense and “feeling” of God’s existence.
As I told the group yesterday morning during our goodbyes, I remember the exact moment I got excited for this trip with Lemonade International. I was walking to an Oscar party and reading Geography of Grace (the book I’ve been quoting ad nauseam since finishing it).
In it, the authors talk about how God’s Presence and Grace is like water: it flows downhill and puddles where it’s lowest.
The Spirit in me, like a divining rod (pun intended) began feeling the draw and pull towards its source, and I felt the anticipation that God would meet me in Guatemala.
He did not disappoint.
Like I said a few days ago, when Jesus took on all that made us most “essentially” human, he took on poverty, suffering, and death—things that certainly mark the lives of those in La Limonada and do not mark the usual American experience.
Now, I don’t say this to do the usual America-bashing that marks many people’s return from some experience in a developing country. Instead, I’m trying to encourage us American doubters.
I believe that everything that God in Christ experienced while on earth are things that God has now incorporated into his own divine experience. And so, when we experience those same things, it’s not just that God is able to “relate to us” and is close to us, but we are also close to him and are even participating in his own divine experience.
If that’s true, then there’s not much of the American experience that lends itself easily to participating in the experience of God. Jesus’ (and therefore God’s) divine experience is one of suffering, poverty, discomfort, pain, danger, dependence, community, alienation, death, and—eventually—Resurrection (which is still very different than the “comfort” and “safety” with which we’re inundated).
To experience these lowest of things is to experience God; to see others going through them is to see God in human flesh.
And so, I say this to all my fellow doubters who find it difficult to know God when their worst sufferings are usually related to jobs, relationship-status, and maybe a couple of heart-breaking deaths in their life. Consider it a dispatch from someone who has just been drinking deeply of the pooling waters of grace, and has returned to tell you great news:
God is real. Christ is real. The Gospel is real. Take heart.
In conclusion, what does this have to do with the theme of “Change” and the picture above?
For me, a quiet confidence in God’s reality and presence (however fleeting it may end up being) is a change in my spiritual chemistry. I don’t return to the States on some super emotional high and new-found dedication of my life to religious work overseas.
I come with a subdued, sturdy encouragement, rest, and confidence in Him. I don”t know that I’ll immediately find myself “doing” many things differently; I’m simply quietly walking with God in love.
And as a testimony to how God met me in Guatemala, I offer this picture above. It was the last picture of Philadelphia that I took before leaving for La Limonada—the last picture from home while I was still parched for God. And yet, it still anticipated what was to come.
Before Guatemala, my eye focused much more on the darkness and how it beautifully drapes the cross. But now, I look at it and I only see the light—so pure, so present, and so real—and I wonder how I could have ever missed it at all.
And so, once more: Take heart. God is real.
This is WordPress’ little plug for the Weekly Photo Challenges:
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.
Here’s how it works:
1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.
2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
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