Apparently God has chosen to place me in two situations in which you can feel like a winner or feel like a failure - and do nothing differently either time. I am living solely by faith in Him. I'm not able to make the differences I want to see happen. But He is and I am trying to live every day through His power, grace, and mercy.
Take the church situation - We continue to see God doing amazing things here. We have huge holes in many places and are a shadow of what we once were - yet God provides - God... ACTS - in ways that cannot be attributed to anything we have done. We're feeding about 130 people every week. We've seen people far from God draw near. And yet there are weeks when I prepare the same way I did for the "good years" and very few show up for worship. The feeling of failure is real to me. I defeat it with the power of prayer, the knowledge of God's absolute faithfulness and ever-abiding presence, and the companionship of my brothers and sisters at New Hope who labor with me.
Things happen. On a Wednesday night when I'm absolutely exhausted from a hard day at school with kids pressing against control and "feedback" from adults that's not uplifting (that'd be sarcasm), I rush to church to help prepare the meals for delivery. A fellow New Hope pilgrim helps me plate the meals, another has already cooked the sauce and started the water and green beans, others have affixed labels to the plates and laid them out. Another comes in and we divide the meals and leave to deliver. I come back to get more. Two people jump up and fix them and I leave again.
I finally find the home of a woman whose neighbor came to New Hope and talked to Bunny about having someone to visit her. She had moved down here from Georgia and had really hard times. She needs family/community - she needs the love of Christ. I had missed worship practice already and was about to be late for prayer. I stayed 20 minutes and listened. And prayed. And left her a meal.
Coming back, we begin our prayer and Bible study which this week centers on a comparative study of Islam. Only we never get there, as a visitor (who had been drinking "but not hard liquor") was trying to justify himself and put his girlfriend in her place. I was so proud of all the New Hope folks around that table. When the visitor tried to use the "you are judging me" card - everyone to a person acknowledged that they too were sinners saved purely by God's grace. When he argued "I know I am going to heaven" everyone rejoiced hoping that was true and refusing to box with that straw-man. We continued to talk about God's grace through Jesus and a total surrender of life to Him.
It was exhilarating.
We were who God had called us to be, doing exactly what God had placed us there to do - point to His Son and the surpassing greatness of the cross. I got to see what God has done in the hearts of the people of New Hope who I love with all my heart. They were kind, compassionate, loving, and completely grounded in the grace of Jesus Christ - and the necessity of it for everyone. I wish I had videoed it so I could have played it back for them. They were instruments of God's grace. They were agents of reconciliation. They were disciples of Jesus being true to the commandment of "love your neighbor as yourself."
It wasn't a Damascus road the man was on though. He grew frustrated with his girlfriend and really our interaction. We were not there to fight. We were there to love as Jesus loved. He wasn't ready to hear it so he left. (We are all praying he returns.) But his girlfriend came back in and stayed, opening her heart to us and admitting her need for Christ. We finished praying for/with her and I left in amazement.