“Watch to see where God is working and join Him.” Reading this sentence from Experiencing God as a bright-eyed college student excited me. Yes! Here I am! Pick me! Send me! My head was filled with visions of missionary work, maybe living in a hut, maybe toiling over a Bible translation late at night, maybe working in an orphanage where all the kids would love me and I would change their lives forever. I was consumed by hero-worship, only the hero wasn’t God. It was myself, and I worshiped the idea of who I thought I would be for God. I wasn’t joining Him in His work; I was expecting Him to join me in mine.
Now, going through this study again so many years later, my perspective has changed. What does it mean to “watch to see where God is working and join Him”? Well, there is that first part that the younger me skipped over altogether, assuming I already knew where God was working. Watch. I’m not always a very good watcher. And when I do slow down to watch, I don’t always like where God is working.
For me, these days, joining God where He is working means listening to a student who has witnessed family members she loves living in an abusive home and holding her hand as she expresses her helplessness and rage. It means sitting in the living room of a grandmother who isn’t sure she has what it takes to raise her wounded, rebellious granddaughter. It means working with the third grader who can’t seem to sit still or listen but who has seen things in his young life that I could never imagine. It means watching young people struggle with depression, mental illness, addiction, cutting, suicidal thoughts. But hardest of all, it means putting myself out there, day after day, into a culture I usually want to run from, and trying to be a light. It means watching some people reject, roll their eyes, mock, laugh at, pretend, lie, or simply ignore what I am offering. It means facing some of my deepest fears and insecurities.
I’ve often questioned Him. “Is this really what it means to join You? Is this really what you want? I don’t think I’m the right one for this job. These people don’t even seem to like me.” Then He reminds me that this isn’t supposed to be about me anyway. He takes me back to the gospels and the apostles. It’s easy to look at all the people who loved Jesus, who responded to Him and flocked to His teaching, but we forget about those who hated Him enough to kill Him. We forget that Paul was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, mocked, rejected, and murdered.
It’s not my job to be the hero or get people to like me. The first part of joining God for me these days is joining His assessment of who I am. I am His. Beloved. Cherished. Redeemed. Known. Held. Secure. And worth it. Joining God means joining His promises for myself, joining in believing I am loved. It means watching as He gives to me, every single day, joys that I simply need to receive. And THEN I can join Him in His work for others. I can hold out the light for those who will take it, knowing the results are not up to me, knowing that things are happening beneath the surface that I may never know.
Joining Him in His love for me, in His love for the world, also means I get to watch how that love transforms those who let it. Like the young boy who is so excited to get baptized that he cannot stop talking about it. Like the high schoolers who come every week to lead junior high small groups. Like the young woman who sits with me in the grass one night and offers her heart to Jesus. Like the three faithful students who meet together early in the morning to pray and study before school.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.” This is where Jesus wants to go. Will you join Him?