24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience. 26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:24-28
We are in this crazy time of fear and hope. I’m not really quite sure how to explain it, but I feel it, and I’m sure you feel it too.
I did not grow up in fear. There was not much in the town I grew up in that needed to be feared. Most people were very similar to me in terms of culture and race. I had two older brothers, mother, father and grandparents nearby. Essentially, I existed in a very close knit family and community.
As I got older, I went to college and still didn’t have much to fear. There was more diversity, but I was really only just aware of my surroundings and tried not to be any place I ‘wasn’t supposed to be’ after dark or in certain parts of town.
Post college and living on my own, I began to think about where the best places to park were so that I was closest to my door and always under some kind of street lamp. I avoided walking to my car on my own after events at night, or if I did, I would carry my keys just right.
I started running a few years ago and would think of all the places I could go to get away if someone tried to grab me. I thought about how loud I could be so someone would hear me.
After moving to San Francisco, I was wary of public transportation and living in a big city. I was constantly aware of everyone around me, what they are doing and if they saw me. I would look down as I passed the homeless and those standing on the sidewalks talking.
I started to think the other night how my fears have evolved, but really they were just my inadequate understandings and misinterpretations of those around me.
I’ve been in the city now for 6 months now, and things are changing- quickly.
I run by myself and enjoy the scenery without thinking about the people around me and who might snag me out in the wilderness.
I take transit and observe the people around me out of curiosity and interest in what they are doing, not out of searching for a reason to exclude myself from talking to them.
I work with syringe access at Glide and surround myself with people I once would have crossed the street to be away from because I didn’t know or understand them. People that my whole life (and even now) I’d been told were ‘bad’ because they were drug users.
Right now, I recognize in myself that being a part of standing up for what’s wrong in the world right now is the only option.
I went to my first protest a few weeks ago at SFO, and I was talking with my co-missionary Quita about how this moment and present time we’re in is something that I’ve never felt. It’s a privilege that I’ve never had to feel it. And I feel like there’s this possibility that all these amazing and good things that so many have worked hard to establish may be lost to greed and fear.
We are hope and we are simultaneously fear. Just like in the movie Inside Out where they realize that you have to have sadness to experience joy, I think we have to have fear to experience hope.
BUT- God does not teach us to be fearful. Fear and worry are not of God nor his intention for us. God wants us to recognize our calls to stand up to fear and be hopeful. I think God can use our fear as a tool of change.
So what happened? What changed in my life to put me where I am today?
One of my spiritual gifts is Faith (divine ability to recognize what God wants done and to act when others fall back in doubts. People with this gift simply have confidence that God will see God’s will done. Believing deeply in the power of prayer, they also know that God is both present and active in their lives.)
In 2013 I felt a call to missionary work, and I didn’t listen. God gave me a second chance last year and I took it to go to Mozambique with our church. I once heard someone say that when it hurts more to say no to God than to say yes, then you know it’s time. When I returned, I knew that I absolutely could not keep working in corporate America and be absent from this call to justice and looking for ways that God can use me for a bigger purpose.
At training I began to truly realize how much I didn’t know about the world, and I’ve tried to make it my goal to see others perspectives, to look at the world in a different way and to be open to accepting that I’ve been wrong about a lot of things for a long time. I need to change now without holding onto what I did in the past. This means meeting other people who aren’t like me and reading and researching history and topics that I’ve never been interested in because they didn’t directly affect me.
So, I invite you today to look at where you are in your life- no matter what circumstances surround you- are you listening to God’s call for you? What fears do you have? Are you working towards understanding that fear and eradicating it with knowledge and hope?
We as Christians are going to be looked at even more in the next coming years. We HAVE to decide what is wrong and what is right. There is no more being passive or trying not to hurt your friends’ feelings. It’s our job to not only hope, but to make others question their fears as well as our own.
Bridges District of the California-Nevada Annual Conference
San Fransisco, CA
Global Mission Fellow US-2, Class of 2016-2018