For the last several weeks, I have been able to view this city I love from a new vantage point: one I had read a bit about and sought to know more of, but one whose faces I did not yet know. God has used it to churn and twist and bend my heart in new ways and like anything else that is good, I just want to share it. I hope you know that is where my heart is in writing... When God pokes and prods and teaches and refines and convicts, I just want to bring others into it. Maybe so I am not alone, but mostly just because I want us to act together as an army. I believe that when we operate as He created us to, in dependent communion with each other, His glory is achieved and we are one step closer to Heaven on earth. I ask the same of friends and family and people I don't know so that we can learn from each other and go after knowing the heart of our King and living to honor Him together, as one.
It was my first ambulance ride-along. As a student, my abilities were limited but I was so eager to see what all of this was about. I had considered and wondered how I would respond to the difficult--the types of things that I'd heard make or break you in this world of emergency medicine. Will I freak out if I see something really gross? Will I be able to maintain composure during an intense call? Is there anything that will send me into the fetal position and thumb-sucking mode? Do I know this stuff well enough to remember it even in a stressful environment? None of those possibilities had been left unconsidered in this ever-wondering mind of mine. But God brought something different.
Patient after patient after patient that day... chief complaint? Tired of living. Weary and weighed down from the world. Exhausted and "out of options." Bearers of burdens that were crushing their frame as minute succeeded minute. Their tears first gathered in the corners of their tired eyes and then fell long, hard, and unhindered. My eyes ached to join them in their tears. Instantly upon looking at their faces and holding their hands, their trouble felt to be my own. Jesus does that. He lets us get into the muck with people and hurt with them because it helps us love them a bit more like He does, I think. The God of all comfort and compassion comforts us so that we can comfort others. As with everything we receive from Him--our testimony, spiritual gifts, joy, comfort, they are for a greater purpose than simply our own benefit. They are for the good of the church-the world-and well ultimately and above all--HIM!
Each of these sweet new friends had different stories, varying ways of acquiring this pain that was now crippling them to what seemed to be the point of no return. More than performing any medical intervention or procedure, I wanted to cup their faces in my hands and tell them that this is not all there is. Something better is available to us. In this world we will have trouble, but our hope lies in the unshakeable truth that He has overcome it all and has prepared a place for us where our pain will not even be remembered, because we will see His face! I did get to tell them a bit of that but I hope and pray for the opportunity to continue the relationships and walk with them through the hard and the happy too. So far I've been unsuccessful in finding them, but I am not giving up easily.
But here's my point (I am such a rambler, thanks for bearing with me) .... God showed me in these moments, they are there. People who are hurting are all over the place, especially in Atlanta--specifically the parts we try to avoid. I think God wants us to go after these people. I think it's cool and awesome and beautiful when we can attribute those "coincidental" meetings and friendships to His providence and guidance and all of that pretty stuff. But I think He wants more of us than to just let Him interrupt us. I think He wants us to be a more active participant and go after these people. I think the Holy Spirit is eager to guide us in the freedom of following where He is faithful to lead.
I wondered about how ambulance dispatching worked in this crazy busy city and now I know. We split up and go all over Atlanta to specific "posts" where the emergency stats are high. We don't wait around in the station and hit the accelerator when we hear that somebody needs our services. We go out there where people are prone to needing us and sometimes we just wait. Sometimes we drive in circles. But we are waiting or circling with purpose. We are waiting with our eyes open. We are circling with a trust that when something happens, we will be ready to quickly come to their aid.
I think God is using all of this to continue showing me how He wants us to live, which I am grateful for. Honestly, before now I was content with the chance meetings and cool relationships that have seemed to have come out of nowhere--just simply Him interrupting my daily living to add someone into the day who needs some loving. Those are great, but He is convicting me that that's not enough. He wants us to use our brains and to go to these places where we can guess that darkness is thick. Sometimes we might just be circling for a little while. We might not be welcome there and we might spend more time waiting than we do in activity... but I think this is still right and good.
Atlanta is aching for Jesus. Drive around with your eyes open if you need confirmation of that. Pass by the intersection of Peachtree and Pine after dark one night. Read the newspaper when you wake up in the morning--I can guarantee a lot went down while you were sleeping. Check out the high school drop-out rate at schools around our city. Visit the Fulton County Jail. Drive on Metropolitan Parkway in broad daylight and try to avoid hitting any of the drunk/high people who accidentally find themselves in the middle of the streets. Sit for 3 seconds inside the Emergency Room of any local hospital. Look under the bridges for the people sleeping as you drive under them. Check out the tents set out under overpasses that serve as a community for some of our Atlanta neighbors. Notice all of the cars in the parking lots of strip clubs and "massage parlors" that are spread all across our city. Go spend time in the Intensive Care Unit and meet all of the people who are on their last days of life and do not know Jesus. Recognize that your neighbor with 8 of the nicest cars money can buy has more than just a healthy love for something worthwhile. As thick as the darkness is in the brothels of Mumbai, the same darkness rules in pockets around our home city...
Some mornings I pray that God will put someone in my path who needs to be loved or needs to hear the gospel. Sometimes those opportunities present themselves and I thank Him for them. But He is adding to that in my mind and heart and He is telling me to go look for them myself. To seek them out. To go where I can guess to find them instead of just waiting for them to come to me. Like the ambulances intentionally place themselves in areas where they can be of service, let's do the same. And let's remain faithful in the waiting and circling that might come along with that, too. Because Jesus is the kind of guy that went after people... He sought them out and came to them in their distress... He came after me and He used others to do the same and the result is His glory. Let's do it--they're everywhere. Let's get up in their business and give ourselves to them generously, in love.
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of Hell." ~ C.T. Studd