Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ants Go Marching One by One

It's Monday night again. I'm driving along the same path and repeating the same statistics and facts about the city. We cross the bridge allowing the stadium to come into sight, and I'm the only one in the van who knows what we're about to do. We park past the yellow fire hydrant along the curb and cross the street to the sidewalk. I begin talking about the football stadium to my left and the juvenile court building to my right. One is lined with Tennessee Titans planters while the other is surrounded by a black rod iron fence. Two different lifestyles separated by a street. Rich and poor. Advantaged and disadvantaged. I finish explaining to my group that both need Jesus equally. Both have brokenness. We talk about the value of intercession and bridging this widening gap between the groups of people represented. I hesitate as I describe how we are going to intercede tonight never knowing how the group will react. They begin to spread out among the sidewalk and lay down- some on their backs, others on their stomachs.

The warmth of the pavement flows into my chest. This week I lay with my head facing the court building and my feet hanging off the curb into the street. I take a breath ready for my weekly conversation with God to resume. My focus changes as I notice the slightest movement a few inches from my face. As I'm about to panic at the thought of ants crawling on me, I realize this ant isn't moving in the ways I would expect. This ant is stuck on its back. I watch as it struggles arching its back with all its might. I reach out my finger and try to push the ant over as gently as possible. He lasts on his feet for only a moment before struggling again on his back. I try again but get the same result. I hover my finger over his legs hoping he will grab on, so I can place him back on his feet. It doesn't work. I conclude that something is wrong with this ant that is too small and intricate for me to fix. I wonder if I should kill it- if by killing it, I will actually be ending its misery. My group begins standing up letting me know they are done praying. I decide to leave the ant to suffer and join everyone else in standing. I look down at my feet in one last attempt to decide to squish it, but the ground is still. The ant has become too small for my vision.

How often have I been the ant struggling helplessly? How often have those around me been the ant- suffering and reaching for help but unable to receive it? How often have I turned away from those in need because it was too painful to face? As I drive through neighborhood after neighborhood and see hardships and struggles, I feel helpless- too insignificant to make an impact. People pushed to the margins of society- too small for its vision. 

"Sometimes, Lord, it just seems to be too much:
too much violence, too much fear;
too much of demands and problems;
too much of broken dreams and broken lives;
too much of war and slums and dying;
too much of greed and squishy fatness
and the sounds of people devouring each other and the earth;
too much of stale routines and quarrels,
unpaid bills and dead ends;
too much of words lobbed in to explode
and leaving shredded hearts and lacerated souls;
too much of turned-away backs and yellow silence,
red rage and the bitter taste of ashes in my mouth.

Sometimes the very air seems scorched
by threats and rejection and decay
until there is nothing but to inhale pain and exhale confusion.

Too much of darkness, Lord,
too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference...

Too much, Lord,
too much,
too bloody, bruising, brain-washing much.

Or is it too little,
too little of compassion,
too little of courage,
of daring,
of persistence,
of sacrifice;
too little of music and laughter and celebration?

O God,
make of me some nourishment
for these starved times,
some food for my brothers and sisters
who are hungry for gladness and hope,
that, being bread for them,
I may also be fed and be full.

- "Guerrillas of Grace" by Ted Loder 

- Amanda, CSM Nashville Summer 2012 City Host

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