By Ed Jordan
I have just returned from attending the annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV). It was an experience with the paradoxical activities of God. Of course the paradoxes occur not in the nature of God but in our finite human interactions with an infinite God, in the paradox of a perfect God seeking to establish a transforming relationship with imperfect humans, and in time-bound humans interacting with a timeless God.
Paradoxes occur when Eternal God who transcends time communicates with linear, chronological time-centric humans, and when time-oriented humans attempt to fit eternal God into our confined timelines, worldviews, and schedules.
It was a very interesting and thought-provoking event. Dr. Gary Nelson, a former General Secretary of the Canadian Baptist Ministries, shared several messages challenging us to not miss God when He gives us the opportunity to meet with Him, and learn from Him. He explained that God is a God who comes to us, seeking to rescue the very people who sometimes don’t even realize that they are on a quest to find this God who desires people to know Him.
One paradox is that while God intervenes in our lives, desiring for us to recognize the opportunity to encounter God, we are often too busy carrying out our own agendas or looking through our own perspectives to recognize Him.
As an example, Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 were having Jesus over for dinner. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teaching. Martha was distracted with all the food preparation activities. She wanted Jesus to tell Mary to help her. By being distracted with preparing the meal to host Jesus, she missed out on partaking of the spiritual meal being served by Jesus, and the chance to interact with Jesus.
Sometimes we are so busy carrying out our own plans that we miss God when He shows up to impact our lives. We can’t see what God is asking us to do even when it is right in front of us.
Dr. John Upton, Executive Director of the BGAV, and current President of the Baptist World Alliance, shared several paradoxical tensions we all face as we sail fast and yet must navigate the unknown. God’s mission is to bring His light into the lives of people who are trapped in darkness. He spoke of the paradoxical encounters between light and dark. The darkness of the night makes the stars shine brighter, the brightness of the stars reveals the presence of the darkness.
He explained how a tribe of headhunters changed their behavior upon meeting Jesus. He shared how in one country young women who had been trapped in prostitution are now having their lives transformed because one Christian lady empowered by God goes into their neighborhood to talk with them about how Jesus can change their lives. Through her ministry God has helped them leave their slavery to their “masters” and have a safe place to get away and begin to learn new vocations in order to begin new lives.
Paradoxes do not only occur in ministry or mission opportunities. They also occur in the tensions between our past traditions, and our “not-yet” futures. God is at work helping us to discover new possibilities in “the now” that can help us set a new course towards a yet unknown future. Our seeming impasses are often challenges that can help God redirect us to new frontiers, to find new ways to do things, or to change course.
We all live in the midst of tension and change. Most of us long for those things which are comfortable and familiar, whether those be our lifestyle, schedules, traditions, food, methods, or routines. Routines are comfortable because we already know what to expect and what to do when x, y, or z pops up in our day. It takes less energy to just do what we have always done. Few of us thrive on the unknown, on the “not-yets,” on those unpredictable encounters with God that might lead us down another path, or into a new method of doing things. And yet God is often found in the unexpected, and unpredicted events of each day.
In what ways is God trying to get your attention and invite you to spend time interacting with Him? Is it possible that a current roadblock in your life might be a call to turn aside and ask God what to do next? Could that frustrating thing in your life actually be God redirecting you to make something that is a “not-yet” into a new adventure that will become a bright future?