I felt a sense of panic as we were trying to park our big bus at a campground in Michigan. We’re big, and we sort of stick out like a sore thumb, so when we are in campground, I always get a little self-conscense. We were finding that the sites that we hoped for were not available and our day was getting away from us. It was hot and we were warn from a weekend of intense community. In my panic, I went a bit faster in my vehicle, trying to get between our site and our bus, which was parked in a lane way. I wasn’t really paying attention to the impact I might have on those around us. I had tunnel vision, so to speak. A man began to chase after my van, yelling for me to stop. I could hear him vaguely but kept going, time moved slowly and I felt like I was floating. However, as soon as I stopped my van and jumped out, the man was there in my face, screaming that I needed to slow down, insisting that I was breaking the rules and demanding I listen to him. Time raced, my heart raced, I lost my cool and fought back, giving him an excuse as to why I should be able to break the rules, but they fell flat. I finally slowed down enough to step back into reality and told him he was right and I was sorry. As he huffed away I glanced around at everyone, including my family, watching the train wreck. Then, as I slid back into my van, I nearly had a break down emotionally, I was embarrassed and felt totally out of control.
We finally settled into our site, but the lingering feelings of disconnect consumed me. I began to mentally give myself lashings, how stupid and selfish I had been, totally hypocritical. And, as I continued the internal discord, a spirit of condemnation began to seep in. It was low-lying and thin, so I could barely tell it was there, yet my moodiness displayed its blatant presence and it was starting to affect my family. Which lead to more internal dialog about how lame I was. The next day, I ran errands, picking up groceries for the week and getting gas. Switching to logistics was a nice distraction and masked some of my discomfort. Later, we all enjoyed dinner and watched a sunset, which was refreshing but as soon as my head hit the pillow, the cloud reappeared and I was soaked in reproof.
Day three was OK, I was over the embarrassment and had moved on to how ridiculous it was that I lost my cool over something so silly. The inner dialog turned from ‘you are stupid’ to “why did I panic over something so stupid?” I began keeping an eye out for the campground guy in hopes of offering a sincere apology. So, it seemed a bit healthier and yet that spirit of condemnation lingered, with it’s sly smile and edgy tone. With no tasks at hand, I tried to consume my mind with relaxing, trying to find a moment to sit on the beach and read my book. I caught little glimpses, but felt unsettled. Then I turned my attention to trying to find WIFI because of a missed e-mail that was “urgent” to get out. That seemed to do the trick, although I really am not a fan of urgency, it’s a little to close to panic. Anyway, after about three hours, I finally got the work taken care of that I needed to, and was going back to my bus to make a beverage. I felt I deserved it, I was exhausted mentally, spiritually and physically, specially after the last few days of internal battle. It was dinner time but I had no gumption to make dinner, all I could think about was trying to catch a break, a moment of refreshment, so I made my drink and was out the door.
As I made my way down to the beach, I heard the faint voice of my daughters saying my name. I turned and she was coming towards me, yelling from down the road. “Mom, mom, someone stole my bike!” With no capacity left in me, I exhaled a long breath, suggested she go report it to the office, told Craig and kept on my way. I sat down on that beach, sipping my drink, trying to escape, trying to find peace. I sat there for about five minutes and then distinctly heard in my spirit, “Get Up! Stop wallowing, get up and go back and engage.” I felt the sacred conviction and immediately snapped up, briskly walking back to the camp. My family was all out searching, so I decided the best way I could help was to start dinner. I put my drink away, took a deep breath, and clearly saw that spirit of condemnation standing there in front of me, laughing. I sunk low, but then remembered who I was. I was a daughter of the God of all gods and that because of that I was not longer under the law of condemnation but rather, affirmation (Grace). I immediately spoke that identity out loud, demanding the spirit leave. Instantly I felt the presence leave, with tail between legs. I began to sing my heart out offering adoration and thanksgiving to my creator. Soon any lingering effects had worn off and I was back to thinking straight, and dinner was underway.
Everyone returned with an update on the stolen bike. Seems, Graciana had been up at the campground lodge checking her Instagram and an older woman had come up to here asking to use her phone. She responded that it was an iPod. The woman walked around the corner, got on Graciana’s bike and rode away. It was later reported that she rode the bike back to her campsite and hid it in the woods behind her tent. The staff in the main office were alerted and called the sheriff to come and help them remove the bike from the campsite. Sure enough the bike was still there, in the woods behind the ladies tent. When confronted by the authorities about the bike, she said she didn’t know where it came from. So, the sheriff and the camp staff came back to us and asked if what our hope was, did we just want the bike back or did we want to take it further and press charges. We declined pressing charges and were happy to have the bike back but still aware of the uncomfortable disconnect as fellow human beings.
I wanted to wallow in my victim stance for a minute. I had every right considering the circumstances. However, I was humbled knowing the internal struggle I had just trudged through and I was reminded of God’s amazing grace and wondered how that plays out in our everyday interactions. I know one of my deepest longings is for others to show me mercy and grace.
So, thinking about this lady and how somehow in her head, that bike was hers to be used and when it was no longer needed, she disowned it. I wondered what her internal struggle must be, trying to put myself in her shoes. I though about the camp staff who I yelled at a few days prior and how he must have a certain opinion of me, who by the way, I was never able to find again to properly apologize, thus leaving our connection in a state of disarray. I though about my husband and how he handled the situation with honor and humility, wanting to protect his family, to see justice served but also understanding the brokenness of humanity. I though about the sheriff and what it must have been like for him to deal with this awkward interaction. I though about my children and how one of them wanted retribution, while the other was almost carefree about it, stating that if the lady needed the bike, she could just have it.
All this to say, we’ve been thinking about the idea of the heart of God towards Justice and how it correlates with worship. We’ve been thinking about this specifically because it is the subject matter at a conference that we’ll be sharing at in Cambodia in December. It’s a big idea and to really think about it sort of makes my brain hurt. And yet, these past few days have been just the catalyst for observational and experiential process. I know God is just, He says he’s just. But what does that mean. I know He has a heart for justice, but what does that mean? I also know we are created to worship, yet how this all correlates is a mystery. And, scripture says we are to “live justly,” but how does it play out in the context of relationship where one betrays another?
Most days, I see life, ideas, and concepts in tapestry or mosaic form and so to look at just one fragment of the picture or one line of thread doesn’t come naturally. I see a God who is the creator of the universe, who is all-knowing, the beginning and the end, who is faithful and just, who is love and truth all wrapped up in one. I see a God who is deeply relational to the core and because of that, he pursues every avenue for connectivity. Likewise, I see that we are created in this God’s image. We have the capacity for deep relationship. We are made for it, and there is an intense link between this connectivity and worship, that maybe worship is participating in that connectivity with God. But how does this play out in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
I’m not really sure the answers to all of these questions but I have a feeling love and mercy have something to do with justice and I will continue to seek them out as I move in relationship with God and others.