So here’s one good starting point to my story…
Sipping Starbucks at a café on Broad Street, I alternated between journaling and absentmindedly watching sparrows peck at crumbs on the sidewalk. It was Saturday, August 20, 2011, and I was taking a much needed spiritual retreat following a tumultuous two month period which included my graduation from seminary, the collapse of two exciting job possibilities, and an enigmatic ending to a dating relationship. Mounting financial stress, uncertainty about next steps, and sorrow over transitions and losses darkened my thoughts.
Recognizing a tune on the radio drew my attention back to the present. We had been learning this Brazilian song in Wide Open World, a children’s missions program that I taught on Sunday nights, and the instrumental music brought back the words:
“Rejoice, I say,
I say rejoice in the Lord always;
When days are happy and when days are grey,
I say rejoice in the Lord!
There is no circumstance that God does not command.
He’s in control of everything!
Be still, be patient, and upon His promise stand.
Lift up your voices and sing:
Alleluia! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Who works by grace and not by merit.
Always rejoice in the Lord.”
As I savored my coffee with the Lord, the raw messiness of my life interacted with the audible reminder of rejoicing in God’s sovereign mercy and the visible reminder of God’s provision for all creation (as seen in Him feeding birds–Matthew 6:25-34). What would it look like for me in this season to find life, hope, strength in God’s promises? How can I rejoice in the Lord, even when my circumstances are difficult? And if I really believed that God would supply everything I needed, what would I do for his glory? Where did I sense him calling me?
I wrote later that night: “Father, I think You are calling me to be more of a “bird-brain” in this season of radical uncertainty. … The birds I saw by Starbucks this morning—they don’t worry about how they’re going to make it because You supply all their needs! And if you do that for birds, how much more will You provide for Your created, redeemed, beloved sons and daughters?”
So if my God is in control of everything, if He gives me strength and life in the midst of my sorrows, if He cares for me even more than the birds (who never worry about their lives), what bird-brained calling would I prayerfully pursue?
Puzzle pieces emerged: Counseling. Underserved, inner city, multiethnic neighborhood ministry. Christ-centered, holistic care. Mentoring Christian healthcare students. Missional. A story in itself, each piece bore witness to ways God had been using me or passions He had been developing over the past few years. Yet combined together, nothing made sense.
Oh well! These are my bird-brained ideas, impossible prayers uttered with wavering faith. I do believe! Help my unbelief!
[PS–I looked through all my pictures in vain for sparrows. So I chose this picture of a gull balanced on a log, several feet from the magnificent descent of Niagara Falls. While the tumultuous river rushes by, the gull remains completely calm and unafraid, cared for by God.]