Have you ever heard the term, “inside baseball?” It’s American slang that refers to the minutiae and detailed inner workings of a system that may only be interesting to, or appreciated by, insiders, and aficionados.
Personally, I hate “inside baseball”. In other words, I don’t like knowing every single detail of how things work. Not knowing helps me enjoy the simplicity of seeing it actually working all together. It gives me something to hope in. Something that draws me away from the other minutiae of my regular daily worries and cares. For me, knowing too much diffuses that hope. It makes things colder and analytical. It makes it hard to see the wonder of things.
That’s one of the reasons why I sometimes hate being a church treasurer. Please understand, I’m happy to be a help and to serve. Sometimes, roles need to be filled, and I gladly do that. However before I was a treasurer, I was the guy happily watching God move with the finances coming in, mine included, to take care of the typical church bills, as well as fund any variety of programs to help the Gospel of grace go forward.
Now, I have “inside baseball”. I know all the things. Not only do I know all the things, I make a lot of the decisions for all the things as to the best way to keep a small church up and running. It’s hard to see the miraculous things of God moving about, because what I’m doing is very normal, very typical for any organization. For me, it sucks the life out of the supernatural.
Then I read:
Acts 2:45 “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
4:32-37 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
6:1-7 “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
These words remind me that the supernatural things of God can be bound up in the very plain, typical and boring acts of our family, friends, and even strangers.
I have to keep reminding myself of this, because of my natural tendency towards cynicism. Even my work as a church treasurer is a “normal” supernatural act that I take for granted. Sometimes I have to step back to remember this. Give myself a type of landscape view. See the broad overview of our little church plant in the heart of NYC. It’s hard to believe how we not only continue on, but that we are regularly in the black, every bill paid. We’ve always seem to be blessed at just the right time, that covers just the right amount. Close up, it looks very typical, ordinary, very messy. So does the rest of the city. Pull back a bit, the messiness is a part of a beautiful landscape. You don’t always see it, but it’s there.
The ordinary way God keeps it all together, through all the various vocations of the church body, whether as a treasurer, pastor, usher, attendee, giver, is still a miraculous act, just in very typical ways, among very ordinary people.
That doesn’t mean I still don’t hate the “inside baseball” of it all. I’d rather be blissfully ignorant as I watch one supernatural thing after another.
Which brings me to our current situation regarding the coronavirus crisis.
I don’t have a lot of inside baseball knowledge, but I do know someone working on the situation in a lab. I also know various health care workers doing their part here in NYC. Because of that, I know a little more than I want to know. I know what some think of the situation, how it’s assumed to progress, and when things may or may not get back to normal. I have faith in God, but it still scares the hell out of me. Part of the fear is knowing too much, wondering if their completely right and things will get progressively worse, beyond the point of ever getting back to even a hint of typical normalcy. Tie that together with all the end-time crackpots and conspiracy theorists coming out of the woodwork spouting nonsense, and I have to bat back anxiety and fear on a pretty regular basis.
Then I remember those scriptures I referenced above. That it reminds me God uses very ordinary means to care and provide for people.
I’d rather know about the big picture miracles, the breakthrough in medicines and vaccines and other treatments, the ones that people “stumble upon” I’d rather see it in the flat numbers of statistics as the numbers of both infected and deaths begin to reduce. I want the landscape view of the virus. I want the city coming together part, the people cheering from their balconies as healthcare workers change shifts. I want the better parts, the more awesome things that make society look like one central organism working together.
But it is messy. It’s ugly.
People are dying. In-between the nice YouTube videos, the jokes and uplifting stories, people really are dying. Hospitals are crowded. Systems are being taxed, probably more than what’s being reported. We are probably farther away from back to normal than we realize.
In all of that messiness, scientist and researchers are still doing very normal typical work, trying to finding breakthroughs and other solutions to quell the destructive continuation of this virus. Doctors and nurses are doing very ordinary typical work caring for people, treating people, trying to save as many people as they can. The medical companies are doing the very normal jobs of creating more supplies for healthcare professionals to have so they can treat their patients and take precautions for their own health.
In all of it, supermarket employees are doing their very typical jobs of stocking shelves and ringing up food at the check out lines. Truck drivers may be driving a few extra routes, but it’s a very ordinary route, like every route before. Farmers and other companies are doing all the typical things they are used to doing to prepare those foods and other products for the drivers of those trucks to take out on their routes.
Even the fast food industry is continuing on in doing very normal things, giving us convenience when someone is too tired from all that work on the front lines to cook.
It hasn’t been perfect. There are still holes to be filled. There’s much more work to be done.
I don’t want you to forget any of that. We shouldn’t. But… just for a second, pull back a little. I’m here in NYC. It’s the epicenter of coronavirus activity here in the United States. I pull back a little, amid the scramble for toilet paper, I do see a city of people caring for each other. I see a city of people somehow getting what they need as they ride this out. I see food stores serving the elderly, home improvement businesses delivering food to those in need. I see people coming out of their normal slots in life to serve and love in different ways. This is big picture, this is the landscape view! It is awesome.
It is miraculous, supernatural. It’s probably why it gets us in the “feels” every time we see it.
I’d rather remain here, looking at this panoramic landscape, with the best parts of what’s happening obscuring the mess. But I know I can’t stay here.
I have to be content in the messiness, knowing God is active in all of it. This is the current situation for all of us now. It doesn’t seem to be going away.
It’ll be ok.
God is with me. God is with you.
In the detailed ordinary mess, and in the awesome panorama.
Right now. Always.
He is here.