Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Gospel Where There Is No Light

It's 4:15 am. I am awake and it is not to start off the day. I just got home from one of the weirdest 60 minutes in recent memory. I'd say the last really odd moment happened a little over 8 months, but these situations which occur tell me my life is just a bit less normal than the rest of humanity. Either that or I just blog about them in an attempt to make them more interesting.

At about 2:45 I woke up suddenly. I sit up in my bed and see my phone lit up. I then notice that the three fans in my room are all turning off, and what once was a bearable warmth immediately shifted to the stale heat no one ever wants to have in their bedroom. There was a power outage throughout the entire building. I struggle for what seemed like an eternity to find the cord for the blinds to my window. I thought, "although we are in the inside corner of our U-shaped building where absolutely no air circulation occurs, the air outside is still much cooler than in here." I eventually found the cord, raised the blinds, and opened my window. While doing this I peered over to my left and noticed that the power was out across the street. With my head pressed against the screen and the hope of breeze in my heart, I tried to fall asleep. About five minutes later a bright light starts to shine above me and what sounded like twelve bulldozers began to reverberate throughout the streets. I laid there a bit longer, one eye closed hoping to fall asleep, the other kept open by the fingers of duty and responsibility.

I tried calling the office for our apartment. An automated voice told me all circuits were busy. I thought it was either the beginning of a cliche horror movie or the Rapture. I decided to throw on a shirt and head to the office, which is several streets down. I reasoned that dozens of people had probably already done this and that dozens would be in the streets to find out what was going on. I was wrong; my belief in humanity had been shattered yet again and the law of the diffusion of responsibility was confirmed. The street was black, save that bright light I had seen earlier, which came not from bulldozers, but from the building right next to us - a senior center. Old people live there and apparently they have old equipment as well. I came to find out later that it was their water pump on the fritz. It sounded like it was gonna explode at any moment. There was even a pipe with a top on it like a steam engine that kept blowing open repeatedly. I imagined an enormous burst, a flaming ball, and the end of my life, alone in the street clutching my new iPhone 4. I then used that amazing tiny device to call ComEd and inform them of the outage. There was no flame. I did not die.

The walk to the office was one of trepidation. At this point I was thinking looters were gonna start storming the streets and start robbing everything. I was surprised yet again that absolutely no one was outside trying to figure out what was going on. I made it safely to the office only to find two people in the lobby - an older, white-haired, beer-bellied Romanian man, and a younger, large black man who was behind the desk. I ask them what happened. They had no idea, but said that ComEd had only found out about it 10 minutes earlier. We talked for about five minutes, listening to some of the JAMs Mustafa was playing on his phone while chillin' behind the desk. The only light we had came from our phones and the emergency lights until a girl comes through a door holding a candle. She comes to the desk and just starts chatting with all of us.

Mind you it is now 3:15 in the morning and the funny thing is we really didn't talk about the power outage from the moment she got there. Instead we talked began talking about yoga because I had made a joke about her coming from her workout. The Romanian man walked away probably out of disinterest. I thought Mustafa would do some of the same, but as we began sharing he started asking about the philosophy and the metaphysics of yoga because he was studying it and the girl was an instructor. I sat there and listened to them both chat with each other for 10-15 minutes. I found the conversation fascinating and the setting all the more. I decided to let them keep talking by asking how they both got into yoga, meditation, chakras and the like. The girl was the only one to share her background, which was a mix of Western medicine learned from her dad and yoga learned for her own health.

Eventually Mustafa had to go help the Romanian man who turned out to be a maintenance guy. The girl, Lauren, turned to me and then asked me if I believed in any of the stuff they were talking about. That's when I said, "I really don't want to show my hand too much, but I'm studying to be a pastor." Looking back that makes no sense. You really don't study to be a pastor; you develop tools that allow you to move from being a bumbling, inept pastor to one who is the same, but just equipped for growth. In any case, however, saying that always perks the ears of listeners. This was when Lauren told me that she was a Christian and how it probably makes no sense that she is both a Christian and a yoga instructor. Hearing her words I think the religion of Christianity may be more prevalent in her life than a saving relationship with Christ is. I shared my thoughts on Christianity and yoga while Mustafa came back into the picture and the lights soon thereafter. It was then I knew I had to speak up some more.

To make what is an already long story a bit longer, I began to share the differences between what Christianity is and what they were talking about. Mustafa was firm in believing in what is called panentheism, that God is in all things, that his spirit is in people as well as geraniums, gophers, and Great White Sharks. This panenthestic belief leads him and all in that line of thought toward the oneness concept of the divine, that we are all one with the divine. This is becoming trendy in the West. The people who hold to it say those in the East have held to it for thousands of years longer than any other idea of religion like Judaism or Christianity, thus they conclude, it must be the right way. It's tolerant. It's all-inclusive. We are all divine. It's the oldest. Therefore, it's right. Apparently this idea of oldest doesn't work for other ancient practices such as monarchies, emperors, or polygamy. We are past those archaic concepts.

I talked about how we are created by God. Mustafa wanted to say we are created out of God. He then moved to prooftext me, by quoting Jesus who said the kingdom of God is in you (Luke 17:21). I can't argue against what Jesus said, right? Well instead of getting into the minute details of that passage, including the fact that Jesus was talking to Pharisees and that a proper translation would be more like "in your midst" or "grasp," I decided just to say that it's not good to throw isolated texts out to support a position. I took a story arc approach and in doing so got to go through the Gospel with both Mustafa and Lauren in about two minutes before getting cut off. The great thing about starting with Genesis and ending in Revelation is you get to tell the story of God's redeeming work from beginning to end, telling how it all climaxes in Jesus Christ. We covered creation, sin, God's wrath, penal substitution, Jesus' resurrection and grace. I didn't get to a point of calling for repentance and faith. We were all cut off by some random guy banging on the door trying to get in the building.

Though Mustafa wasn't really buying it, Lauren did. She was intrigued by it all and told me how she and her roommate had just been talking earlier in the night about finding a church in Chicago. She mentioned how her roommate brought it up with her for the first time and that she wanted to go with Lauren whenever Lauren went. Lauren herself has only been here for three weeks and seems to be in a lot of transition in life. She mentioned how this "random" meeting must have happened for a reason. We exchanged contact information and went our separate ways. It was 4:00 in the morning.

As I walked home, the streets and all the buildings lit back up, I wondered aloud to God why this kind of stuff happens to me all the time. At staff prayer for The Linewe prayed for opportunities to share the Gospel, that God would open doors just like Paul talks about in Colossians 4:2-6. I look at that passage now and think of how amazing the call is to walk in wisdom toward outsiders and have gracious speech. I'm not sure how I did in either of those, but I did make the best use of that time where once there was no light, but now there is.

It's 5:23 am. Time to sleep.

By His Grace.


  1. LOVE it! God is so good :-)

  2. You know it! This was such a wild time!

  3. I love stories like this :-D Thanks for sharing!