Recognizing God’s fingerprints
By: Captain Sandra Pawar
The following article originally appeared on the Australian Salvation Army website others.org.au and was written by Captain Sandra Pawar, a Southern Territory officer serving in Australia.
“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” – Richard Rohr
I’m a person who has a deep desire to be in relationship with people. I’m at my best when surrounded by others, having deep conversations, laughing with them and sharing life around a table or on comfortable living-room couches.
I’m the kind of person who longs to be fully invested in the community in which I work and live. Not only do I want to be fully present and involved in my community, I want to join God in what he is already doing in these places. I want to hear people’s stories and what God has been doing in their lives.
As a Christian, I know that when I work, live or move into a community, I’m entering a space where Jesus is already present and that all I am doing is joining him in what he is already doing. I have come to understand that it is God who is leading and inviting me to join him as his partner, not the other way around.
For a long time, I wanted to be the hero of the story, the problem solver, the person to bring Jesus to people, but that is such a dangerous and damaging approach. I don’t bring Jesus anywhere; he was there long before I even knew of the location.
In these days of social distancing and isolation I have struggled with not being able to be around “my” people. I have hated that I can’t visit people freely or have them visit me. I feel such a grief for the personal connection I have lost with people in my community.
I have also had times where I have mourned the loss of being able to bring the gospel to these communities. I have thought, “How will they know about Jesus if I am not allowed to share him with them?”
Jesus has been so quick to put me in my place. You see, Jesus is already there in that community. He is at work, and, in fact, he never left that community. Jesus didn’t have to follow any social distancing rules or self-isolate from his people. He was there; he has always been there.
Jesus was already present in our communities before we got there, before COVID-19 messed things up and before we had to retreat. This is important to understand because when restrictions are lifted and we are allowed to socialize with people again, our friends and our neighbors are going to have stories to share. They will have stories to share about how God spoke to them, how God provided for them, how God protected them and how God healed them. They might not mention his name, but it was him.
While we have been in our houses keeping our families safe, God has been moving. Beautiful stories have been unfolding in the lives of our community members. When life gets back to normal (whatever that will look like), it will be our job to hear, see and recognize the hand of God at work.
We will need to recognize the activity of God in the story of the community. Whether the community is Christian or not, whether religious or not, our theology tells us that God has been doing creative and redemptive work in the life of the community, if only we look for it.
Wherever a disaster was averted, an expected blessing received, God and grace were at work. Wherever things have worked for life and against death, Christ’s fingerprints can be seen. All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17-18).