Needed Perspective

I recently returned from the countries of Ukraine and Moldova in Eastern Europe. Such experiences bring much needed perspective to how I look at life. There are always moments and memories that define these trips for me. More often than not they are easy-to-miss moments when God surprises me with His presence.

On Sunday I taught a gathering of 4-5 small churches we've played a role in starting and supporting in an area called Nisporeni in Moldova. We arrived early and found people bundled in heavy coats, gloves and hats in a cold, unheated auditorium. We were greeted with warm smiles and kind handshakes. A few adults spoke with me through my friend Eugen who served as my translator throughout the morning. Before the service began I sat toward the back of the auditorium to take it all in. A woman with four little ones sat down in the row in front of us. She looked weary and weathered. She arrived alone with her kids. She and her children were unkempt and underfed. She left and returned to her seat a couple of times. Each time she would empty her pockets into a small bag she tried to keep out of sight on the floor. It was bread. Our church provided bread along with other snacks for the villagers who gathered that morning. She was collecting bread for her family. When she realized I noticed she glanced back at me with an awkward, almost embarrassed, look in her eyes. I smiled and nodded that it was fine. She smiled and went on.

God's timing is a mysterious thing. Most of the time I miss what God is doing until well after the fact. Not this morning. My two talks were taken from Jesus' prayer in Matthew 6: "give us our daily bread".  In the minutes before I taught I couldn't get this woman and her children off my mind. As I spoke my eyes returned to her. God had provided a living parable that reminded me I was speaking to people for whom this prayer isn't about luxuries but necessities - not about saving for a rainy day or retirement - but about feeding a family today. It was humbling to speak about the place of dependence, contentment and gratitude in our lives as followers of Jesus and to suggest that the simple gesture of praying before a meal gives us an everyday opportunity to express our trust in God's provision.

In the course of my 2nd talk I was overwhelmed by the incongruity of me, an affluent American, teaching these folks about such things. At one point as I was speaking there was an awkward pause when my emotions silenced my words. Eugen patiently waited for me to regain my composure. My words felt strangely shallow yet life-giving at the same time. Their lives had so much more to teach me than my words could ever teach them. 

I wonder what moments and memories define our days? Those times when we see God's presence with a clarity that shapes or reshapes our perspective. Our awareness may be heightened in those hard-to-miss moments. But what about our everyday moments? I also wonder how often we may fail to see God's presence when it's right in front of us.

Fighting for your heart,

Gary