The Time In Between
Lately, it seems that BIG things are happening every week. Massive forest fires in the west are blotting out the noon day sun, gigantic hurricanes in the south cause state-wide flooding, power outages and destruction. News stories are filled with adjectives like “largest,” “biggest,” “worst,” “super-massive,” “unprecedented,” “apocalyptic” and “historic.” And along with these BIG events comes BIG destruction and loss. Homes destroyed, lives lost, people displaced and places of former beauty left barren.
But the news is not all bad. Stories of bravery and sacrifice by first responders, bystanders and people called in response to suffering are leaving their safe places to help those caught in the path of danger and destruction. Others respond by raising large sums of money; by opening their homes and civic spaces to the displaced and by collecting, packing and sending thousands of pounds of food and supplies to help those caught in the wake of the destruction. We respond in BIG ways to these BIG events.
BIG things have also been happening at NorthPark. We just celebrated a really BIG anniversary. We marked the occasion with BIG events that drew large crowds. A BIG dinner and show drew a packed ballroom. The next day, the sanctuary was full, as we enthusiastically thanked God for a ministry that has lasted for 150 years. Then we cut the ribbon on a really BIG and unique ministry: a 3,000 square foot, state of the art greenhouse that will help feed thousands of food-challenged people every month. We also publicly recognized over one million minutes of service by our congregation in the first eight months of the year. We respond in BIG ways to these BIG events.
Yes, there is no question that we find it difficult to ignore BIG events. But what happens after the 24-hour news coverage moves on to something else? It’s the time in between these BIG attention commanding events that we often struggle.
We know God is present when we witness acts of human courage and selflessness in the face of tragedy. We believe God is present in our midst when our church is blessed with great resources and success in our work and witness. But what do we do to sustain a focus on others and a sense of continuing gratitude on the average, ordinary days when nothing BIG is happening? It becomes a lot easier to retreat into a bubble of self-absorption.
Whether its ignorance of the quiet, unseen suffering of others or indifference to the gifts that God has given us, we often fail when God’s presence is less obvious. It is in those moments that we must be even more intentional in our thinking about gratitude to God and our service to others. This is one of the reasons we end each service the way we do ‒ charging each other to “Go out into the world in peace. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
There is a tendency to mark our history by focusing on the BIG events that occurred along the way. However, I suspect that a reason for NorthPark’s longevity over the past 150 years can be found more in the small acts of kindness, love and gratitude lived out, day after ordinary day by the members of its faith community; small acts by regular people carried out in ordinary times. And God was there, too.
May we continue to live each day by looking for small and ordinary ways to demonstrate our gratitude to God and love for one another.
Ty Gomez is a current NorthPark Presbyterian ruling elder, chair of the Communications Committee, and soccer dad. In his spare time, he practices law, plans more unfinished woodworking projects, and cooks for the women in his home.