Water From the River That Isn’t Supposed to be There.

I recently purchased a vehicle, one that I never imagined I would own.  Not that it’s extravagant or far nicer than I deserve. It’s just different. A make, model and color that I wasn’t looking for. Not even close.

Buying the vehicle was the end of a personal experiment that I began over a year and a half ago. (you can read the story here) It was a decision that was part of my faith journey. In July 2021, my car had mechanical failure, putting me in a position to repair it or get a new one. I chose a third option. I decided to wait and enter into a conversation with my Maker about it.

So how do I pray about something when I don’t have to? I was not in a place of desperation or dire need. I had the financial means to replace the broken down car. So why did I go a year and a half without owning a vehicle?

All I can say is I have a tendency to do things a little differently. I like to look for what I can’t see. I like to imagine what doesn’t exist. My drum beat is at times in compound meter.

The Asbury Revival falls into the same category for me.

In my previous life as a collegiate pastor, I was praying towards a certain end. I wanted to see spiritual awakening on my campus. I joined the prayer gatherings, and if there wasn’t one, I organized it.  I had an image in mind of what the Hound of Heaven wanted to do. And that vision looked alot like what played out at Asbury University.

In no way do I think what happened there was illegitimate, false or even dangerous (as some critics say). I only saw images and heard a bit of audio, but it all looked and sounded like a move of young people that yearned for something more than what they had been handed and beyond where they had been led.

But then the crowds showed up, along with the media outlets and every religous podcaster with an iPhone. (I can’t help but wonder where they all parked and took a leak?) Throngs of folks who had a similar yearning or just severe FOMO wanted in on it and to see for themselves.

And why wouldn’t they? It was an unusual event, and it scratched an itch for both believers and naysayers who wanted positive or negative affirmation for the spectacle.  Had I been in the area, I’m sure I would have wandered in.

As I said, there was a time when this would have been the manifestation of what I had been pursuing during my 18 years serving on the college campus.  But I hold a different picture in mind now. And I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing Asbury in order to grasp something more.

It is good that you grasp the one 
And do not let the other slip from your hand. 
For the one who fears their Creator
Will end up with both of them.

--The Preacher

I’ve been attached to Isaiah 43:19 for nearly 40 years. Or I should say it’s been attached to me for that long.  Ever since I was a young man of 18 years, when I first discovered the scriptures, certain passages have seemed to have leapt off the page and clung to me. And I could never shake them from me. These words are among them:

See, I am doing a new thing!     
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a roadway in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

There are plenty of scholars who would immediately stop me and tell me I am taking this out of context.  I know this because I was taught to think this way 40 years ago.  But faith has a way of shaping me and realigning me, away from the rigid and narrow certainty to which I once subscribed, into a more wide open space of beauty, freedom, awe and wonder.

I now get to ask new questions.

“What does new look like?”

The movement in Asbury isn’t new. Some say there have been eight in the history of the school. And they tend to look the same; a standard meeting that turns into an all day and night vigil, with prayer, worship, repentance, healing, forgiveness, etc. And it goes on and on.

And it doesn’t diminish the movement that is burgeoning there.  It’s just not the new thing I’m being drawn to watch and wait for.

For a year and a half. I had my mind set on a Ford F150, preferably red. I drove one for 18 years. I knew they were reliable. My father was a Ford guy and his dad was a Ford mechanic.  This is why I was reluctant to consider anything else. I had my mind made up. A red Ford truck was the end-goal.

When my auto dealer friend called me with an option I hadn’t considered, I turned him down. It wasn’t a Ford. It wasn’t an F150. It wasn’t red.

A few days later, he called me back, apologizing for being pushy, but recommended I come out and at least drive it.

I drove it off the lot two days later.

So did I compromise? Should I have held out for what I had my heart set on? Was I bending and giving up?  At the time, yes. But the answer now is definitely no.  It took someone who knew me to suggest a different option I had never considered.  Someone I trusted.

Faith is being sure of what I hope for, and certain of what I don’t see.  I’ve learned to put my desire for awakening in that category.  We know what it looks like when a movement breaks out in a meeting on the campus of a Christian university. What about at a movie, or in a city park. What will it look like in a drag show or on a dorm floor?  Or simultaneously in individuals listening to the same song, at the same time, all around the world?

Or none of the above.

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