Circle on the floor
As mentioned many times, four years ago a Twitter post caught Harriet and me during the most painful night of our many years together. It read, "In trouble we ask, how do I get out of this?". We should ask, "What do I get out of this?". It occurred as we tried to comprehend the murder of our son. Right then we knew God would teach us something in the ordeal.
Silly, immature me! I thought he was going to reveal the mysteries of the universe, or at the least, some new elements of the human grief cycle. In those first months after Brian's death I waited patiently every night for moments of clarity about the drug culture that grips many of our urban neighborhoods. On Friday mornings I prayer-walked the street where Brian was killed, did some volunteer work in a mission project in that same inner- city community, all in the expectation that he would split the clouds and show me something that would be a game-changer for the people in those areas. Surely the "what" of that entire experience would be a discovery of epic proportions, a social truth that would alter the landscape of our blighted eastside.
The "what", however, hasn't been about culture, the church, world mission, or the justice system. I haven't gained insight about the criminal mind, the drug or gang world, how informants work, street rep, or any of the other details about Brian's killing. The "what do I get out of this?" answers haven't been about criminal justice, social development, jobs for the poor, or revival in the nation. It has been about me---ntensely personal lessons, not plural, collective, corporate, or group outcomes. The lessons he was going to teach me weren't about how I could help those poor folks down on America Street or assist the minisiries that were already working there. No, these "what" lessons were about me. He needed to show me something.
OK, I know it's trendy to say "it's not about me", and I agree to some extent. Years ago I learned that I'm not the center of the universe and that the world isn't arranged to please me or address only my needs. But, underneath all the layers of culture is one single person. Me or you. And, the beginning of just about anything is that one single person. The "what" of the last four years has been the discovery of my purpose in that bigger picture, and the things about me that needed changing if I was going to be any influence in the culture at all.
Today, in the aftermath of the Charleston killings we're dealing with societal ills at more levels than I can enumerate in this space. Good grief, the entire population is over- sensitive, people are offended by just about everything, liberals own the press, hard-
working Americans have been silenced, hustlers will ride a tragedy to further their own cause, and nine people are being buried, killed as senselessly as our son. Right now, everybody has a microphone and we're all prescribing solutions for these and other troubles. How do we fix what is wrong with our world? The talking heads fan the flames, and people on the street weigh in with their angle of fixing what is broken about us.
Nice try. Diversion number one. The "what do I get out of this?" once again is about me. In the wake of these days, with all the rhetoric and positioning, I've got to figure out the degree of my own prejudice, the boundaries of my own view of humanity, the strength and validity of my own confession of faith, where I stand with God and man, how committed to life is my pro-life stance, how can my voice speak to the times, what does it really mean to love the sinner and hate the sin, and so many other significant personal questions. Before I start offering advice about what is happening in this world I need to know what is happening with me. And, soon.
Years ago, British evangelist Gypsy Smith told how to begin revival in a nation. Author Mark Batterson credited Smith with this approach in his book Draw the Circle: The Forty Day Prayer Challenge (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: 2012). Smith wrote, "Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle."
That's what I'm thinking is the "what" of my learning the past four years, and then again, the last two weeks. A circle in the floor. Every day. All the time. Start here in this circle.
Start with me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalms 51:10, ESV