Last Saturday, I returned home from the much-angsted-over mission trip. I tried so hard to look for God in the unexpected, to see him working in ways other than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to. And for some on the trip, he did. Students talked of how, for the first time, they realized their faith could be something real, something that shapes their lives. They worked, they sang, and they prayed like they truly didn’t even know was possible. It was beautiful to see.
But I wanted some of it for myself, too. As nervous as the thought made me, I wanted God to show up. I wanted him to show me that he’s much bigger and better than I’ve let him be in the corner I’ve tucked him into.
And he just didn’t.
I had a hard time setting aside my skepticism about ways of doing things that I’m not used to–I’ll be the first to admit that. While I like to say that I think differences in how we worship, how we experience God, the way that we interact with people, what we believe about baptism and communion and any number of things, are okay, sometimes I fall into thinking that my Christianity is better than yours. As hard as I tried to set all my preconceived notions aside last week, I didn’t do very well. So maybe I didn’t see God working in unexpected ways because there was still a small piece of me that didn’t want to see him work like that.
Fortunately, God is at work all the time. Even when we look so hard for him to show up in unexpected ways that we kind of miss the point.
Because one night we sang a song I have sang more times than I can even count. It was a regular on the roster in the church I grew up in and in any number of “church-y” events I have attended.
And as much as many of the students felt God in the words of the many flashy new songs we sang last week, I felt him here. In these tired words that have been cast aside by many of my peers, I was reminded that God doesn’t just work in new ways: He works in old ones too.
In the same ways I’ve seen and felt him working all through my life.
It doesn’t mean that he can’t use new ways, but there’s nothing wrong with the old ones. Nothing wrong with these words I’ve sang so many times before, just like there’s nothing wrong with the Bible verses I’ve read over and over again. Just because they’re familiar doesn’t mean they need to be retired.
And so, I suppose, God did show up in a way I didn’t expect him to: He showed up right where I’d left him.
Til next time…
p.s. How have you been reminded of how God works in the same ways you’ve experienced him before?