Raindrops Not Tidal Waves: A Vision for the Future of America
A few days ago, I had a spirited discussion with my son who is a professor of political science at a Christian university. After discussing our different opinions of the political issues of the last couple of weeks, I ended our time asking him this question, “What is the path we need to take to get our country out of this mess?”
My question evidenced my belief that America has lost its way. Each of you reading this blog will likely have a different version of how to define it, but most all of us have a sense that we are a country in decline. At this most dangerous and chaotic moment in our history, I was looking for a path that would lead us to restoration. I was not surprised by my son’s answer, “I don’t know Dad, it’s hard to even imagine it.” It was the same answer I have received from countless leaders whom I had sought the same response. Indeed, it seems impossible to chart a course that would help our country restore so much of what is being lost.
It’s not my purpose in this blog to dissect and examine the ills that face us, but for the sake of clarity here is a summary of what’s on my heart.
- I am looking for and praying for a return to some level of civility.
- I long for a cessation of anger fomented by both injustice and self-righteousness.
- I yearn for the de-politicizing of life.
- I want to see a day where our political leaders do the work of the people with dignity and grace, disagreeing on key points without vilifying each other.
- I look for a national ethic that refuses to tolerate the least sense of racism and demands justice and fairness for every American.
- I want to see an acknowledgment that a foundational cultural morality is necessary for a thriving nation and the common good and I long for that morality to be based on the kind of Judeo-Christian values that have supported this nation for nearly 250 years.
- I hope for the day when the voice of the church is welcomed in the public square and its influence is seen in every area of American life, not through power or performance, but through its consistent quiet witness and winsome presentation of the hope of the gospel.
In short, I pray for a day when we will be a better nation, when there will be a return of goodness and neighborliness and fairness and hope for every American. We have always been a flawed people, but we have been a better nation, much better.
The question is, looking at the desperate state of our country today, how do we get there? One of the answers I am hearing from many of my brothers and sisters in Christ is the need for a third great awakening. The vision is for something like a spiritual tidal wave, a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will sweep across the land, reset the moral standards of our country, reestablish a sense of right and wrong, and usher in a new age of civility, service and justice. I have prayed for such a revival myself.
It’s tempting to look for the one great national movement that will put us back on the right path. One magnificent movement of God that will be so irresistible it will touch every area of American life. The problem with the tidal wave approach is that it places people on the sidelines, waiting for God to do something great before they get involved. In my Bible study and quiet time, I have a growing sense that God may have a different way forward for our country. While the attraction to such a sweeping vision is significant, I believe God may be calling us to a very different way. The image that is generating in my spirit is one of raindrops not tidal waves. I know already this seems much less exciting than the thought of a national spiritual tsunami, but let’s think further on this.
Deserts are transformed by slow, steady rain. Cracked, hard and arid dirt only becomes fertile ground for crops to grow when they absorb the rain over periods of time. The cumulative effect of steady rain on arid land is transformational. We are a people who like quick fixes and instant gratification, so this image may be hard for us. However, I believe its long-term effect and potential cultural impact is undeniable.
So here is my vision for the future of America. If each one of the tens of millions of Americans who claim to be followers of Jesus doubled down on their commitment to be his hands and feet, to be salt and light, to live faithfully as his followers right where they are planted, I believe the rain would start to fall. As raindrops, every single one of us are called to live out our faith in profoundly more faithful ways every day, right where we are.
That means taking advantage of every opportunity God puts in front of us to love our enemies, serve our neighbors, work for justice, refuse the temptation to anger, discouragement or the disparaging of others. It means refusing to add one ounce to the massive weight of rancor and disunity sweeping across our country. It means living out the sermon on the mount, being peacemakers, humble servants, championing the rights of our neighbors in the face of injustice, and searching our hearts for hidden attitudes that divide us from them. It means committing to the ongoing transformation of our hearts and living that out in every relationship in which God places us.
And we can do it. Each of us. Every day. Every moment. We can water a parched earth right where we are in the small, seemingly insignificant decisions we make about the way we live, the way we think and the way we communicate to the people around us. It means letting the fruit of the spirit live through us because we are abiding in the vine.
Imagine, just imagine tens of millions of people living more faithfully the truth of the gospel right where they are. The impact would begin so small. It would be a transformed marriage, a family, a church. It would filter out into the community and begin to transform the way we run our businesses, local government, law-enforcement and education. The steady rain would begin to turn parched land into arable soil in which God would sow richly for the future of our country.
With no fanfare, no imposing, cresting wave sweeping across our country, our spiritually and morally arid land would become as a prophet said,
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. Isaiah 35:5-7
All of this begins with us, right where we are. Nelson Mandela reminded us,
The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility.
Are you ready to allow God to use you as one drop of rain right where you are today? It means stewarding every part of your life every minute of the day. It is fully surrendering to him so that he may fully live through you. Again, let me remind us, this rainmaking way of following Jesus is lived out in small, seemingly insignificant ways. It will be a smile instead of a frown, a word of grace instead of a harsh word. It will be refusing attitudes that make us angry or divide us. It will be choosing grace and playing the peacemaker even when we think we are right. In the end, it will be living as Jesus lived in a more faithful way than we’ve ever done before.
If you will commit to this, if I will commit to this, the rain will begin. In fact, I believe it’s already falling in so many places across our country. We can pray for the tidal wave, but let’s not allow our waiting for it to keep us from allowing God to use us as a raindrop right where we are.
How will God use you today to water the ground where you live and lead?