"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The King, Chris Clayman, and a Trashy Parking Lot

I'm reading the autobiography of missionary Chris Clayman. The book is called Superplan.

It's excellent. 

Many of us spent a few of our early years as a Christian fearing that God might call us to the mission field. "From here to Timbuktu" was the phrase we'd use to illustrate how far we feared God might send us.

Chris Clayman actually moved to Timbuktu, Africa to share Christ with the Bandogo people. 

How does a 23-year-old caucasian from Georgetown, Texas wind up in Timbuktu? 

In the book, Chris describes how he grew up in a "strong Christian family, a supportive community, and a modest but well-provided lifestyle." He attended a Christian university (Abilene Christian).

Chris assumed the safe and secure Christian experience of American evangelicalism.

In college, however, Chris came to understand what it means for Christ to be King.

It happened like this.

Chris was in a local park in Abilene, reading his Bible and praying. He noticed a man sitting in a van nearby. Chris felt God telling him to go talk to the man about Jesus.

Uncomfortable at attempting to converse about Jesus with a complete stranger, Chris rearranged his Bible so the man could see the cover (Holy Bible) and quietly told the Lord, "If You want me to talk to this man, prompt him to leave his van and start a conversation with me on the bench."

Within minutes, "the man rolled up his window, started his car, and drove away."

While many Christians might not be bothered by an experience like this, Chris was crushed.

Chris felt dissonance in his life. His beliefs aligned with the Bible. His Christian peers and church family would call Chris a "committed Christian." But Chris realized in that park that he'd sanitized the radical Jesus of Scripture into someone who would never ask His followers to do anything uncomfortable.

Like many evangelical Christians in America, Chris considered Jesus as a life coach who's guidance and instructions are more like a suggestion. Rather than serving the King of Kings and doing what Jesus said without hesitation, Chris worshipped himself.
"You want me to go talk with that man, Lord? It's too uncomfortable for me. If You really want this man to know You, make him come to me." 
Chris realized that his Christianity had become more about himself than Christ.

So Chris called a friend and asked if he could pick him up and go to a local coffee shop to talk. The friend, a fellow college student, named Sam, agreed. The two drove to the coffee shop, but they didn't make it inside. There in the parking lot, seated in the car, Chris poured out his heart to Sam.

He confessed his half-hearted devotion to Christ and his love for comfort more than the Kingdom. He told Same that he was only giving lip service to Christ as Lord.

As Chris shared, he "began to see that knowledge of God and the Bible is only as useful as the obedience that results." Verses like "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) began to come to his mind. And, more importantly, these verses began to make sense to Chris.

What it meant to be a follower of Christ was becoming clear.
"If anyone would choose to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
That night was life-transforming for the Abilene college student named Chris Clayman.

When the conversation ended, the coffee shop had closed. It was time for Christ and Sam to leave the parking lot and go home.

What happened next is why Chris wound up in Timbuktu. Chris explains in his own words:
"As we exited the parking lot, my eyes fixed on the trash strewn across the lot. "Pick up the trash,' God commanded. 'Pick up all of it.'
Did I hear an audible voice? Was it a deep impression or stirring within me? All that I can say is the command was clear--if not audible, clear enough to be audible. I had spent the last few hours ranting about the radical nature of following God and vowing to follow and obey Him even if doing so seemed crazy. I assumed such vows related to talking to strangers at parks, choosing where to live, or making social and vocational decisions. But picking up trash in a parking lot?!
I did not turn the car around. Who would know anyway? I proceeded onto the street, my mind and heart racing - wrestling - with the command I had received. "It doesn't make any sense! This is crazy! Who does this? What will people think? The parking lot will just be dirty again the next day!"
I advanced no more than 30 yards when a confident resolve won the short, intense battle in my soul. I knew God was testing me. Would I do what he asked me to do even if doing so seemed crazy? I turned to Sam in the midst of the sudden U-trun and said, "I can't explain this to you right now, but I have to clean up the parking lot."  I parked the car.
On my hands and knees in a parking lot that could fit several hundred vehicles, I began picking up cigarette butts and other trash. I cannot remember how long I cleaned. Two hours? Three?
About halfway through, thinking who knows what, Sam joined me and, without a word, began picking up trash with me. By the end, our hands were stained and dirty. For some reason, we knew teh cleaning needed to be done by hand. After we had disposed of every cigarette butt and fast food wrapper, Sam and I sat and stared at the trash-free parking lot. We knew the ground would be littered again in a few hours. We knew our work was meaningless to the world - but for us, the space had become holy ground. 
I think we even took off our shoes."
When we speak of the Kingdom of Christ, we mean the place where Christ the "King" has "Dominion."

Kingdom means "The King's Dominion."

Chris' story is a fresh reminder to us all that Christ is King.

And history is His Story unfolding.

Let's be the kind of Christians who love people unconditionally, serve others sacrificially, and follow Christ radically.

That's what it means to be Kingdom people, from here to Timbuktu. 

7 comments:

Christiane said...

“Humility is a nameless grace in the soul, its name known only to those who have learned it by experience."

(St. John Climacus)

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I’ve pondered the difference of Jonathan’s decision of fighting 20 Philistines or not to fight and Chris’s asking God for the man to come talk to him.

Whereas Jonathan would be content with either the Philistines saying “come fight” or “stay where you are”; Chris was crushed when God didn’t do what Chris wanted.

On the subject of picking up trash, our church every so often picks up the trash nearby of two miles on a country road. My sister was the one that started it.

However, one time she went ‘overboard’. Following a pickup, she saw two young girls, riding in the back, throw their drink cans to the side of a highway. The truck turned off the highway and went several miles on a county road.

My sister didn’t know the girls or their father, but followed them to their house. She demanded the father to pick the cans up. He told her he would scold his daughters but he was not going back and look for cans. My sister argued so much that he said, “You’re trespassing and I’ll call the police if you don’t leave.”

I don’t have to tell the end of the story. :)

Christiane said...

Hey Rex Ray,
Hope you are having a good Sunday. How long was your sister in jail before the family bailed her out? (I'm kidding.) But you never know. These days women don't scare so easy. :)

If I had done something like litter and my father found out, I would be cleaning up my own mess and probably picking up a lot of other peoples' mess along the highway as well. Whoah! Pop did not play.

The story of Chris is interesting in that how, these days, 'humility' is much misconstrued as 'weakness', and is then so easily dismissed as something absolutely BASIC to our Christian faith. A lot of people don't realize how humility frees them from so much that weigh down everyone else, and being 'free', they can then serve in the way that Wade mentions: "sacrificially" and "radically". You have to be very very STRONG to serve in that way, as if was Our Lord's way, whom we follow.

What can humility free us FROM?

revulsion and contempt for 'the others',
from being easily 'offended' by others,
from needing to be competitive and recognized for our achievements by the world . . . .

so many things can be laid down, like burdens, once a person is humble before their God, so many things that weigh us down, not as 'reasons' but more as 'excuses' for not serving.

Like St. Francis who had a great revulsion for lepers, until this happened to him:
“When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them."

Flannery O'Connor, the Southern gothic writer who passes away all too soon, once wrote that people "think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross".

So in Wade's story of Chris and the trash in the parking lot, we find an 'encounter' not so dis-similar to the one between God and St.Francis:
in his response to God, the weight of 'something' very heavy has been removed from Chris.

Rex Ray said...

Christiane,

No, we didn’t have to bail my sister out of jail. Being on private property and trespassing was more than even she could argue with. :)

Yes, we had a good Sunday after I got wet in a sudden rain because I had our car windows down expecting heat. In SS we were asked to recall an event that stood out that we’d never experience again.

When I was 16, our father took us to observe the German Nurnberg Trials. We had earphones in English and could see the courtroom. The prosecution had rested their charges, and the defendant’s lawyer pleaded the man was only following orders, but he received the death sentence. The belt buckle of German soldiers had, “In God we trust”.

Bob Cleveland said...

An interesting thing just occurred to me about this. I'd compared it in my mind to an acquaintance from 50 years ago who'd told a story about passing a house out in the country and feeling a nudge to go witness to the residence. He fought the nudge for maybe 10 miles and finally gave in, turned around, drove back to the house and went to the front door.

It was abandoned. He said he'd viewed it as a test of his obedience, not his witnessing abilities.

I think your friend Chris' experience was different. God knows everything, so he already knew whether Chris was going to pick up that trash. But the episode taught Chris something about his own devotion to God. I imagine the next time God whispered in his rear, he was 100% more confident that he could, indeed, be obedient to those Heavenly messages.

It took me a long time to learn that about myself. My shy, insecure, introverted self....

Christiane said...

Hi Rex Ray,

I'm not averse to the idea that a whole people can find themselves following a demagogue to their own destruction as is what happened in Germany;
but I think first these people had to lay aside their own humane impulses in order to adopt the ways of the 'leader'.

But sometimes, something of that humane core remained as in this case:

" an example of the tragic choices made by adults when faced with German demands. Janusz Korczak, director of an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto, however, refused to abandon the children under his care when they were selected for deportation. He accompanied them on the transport to the Treblinka killing center and into the gas chambers, sharing their fate."

I think about today's children in 'the camps' in our country and I hope there may be at least a few of the caregivers of the quality of a Janusz Korczak. What are the chances of this? Well, I don't leave it to 'chance', I look to Providence to move hearts and minds in a land where this kind of abuse can be afflicted on little children at the command of a 'leader' who, before acting, was warned that the suffering of forced separation would cause lasting trauma to the little ones. It seems that these children are from 'unwanted' or 'dangerous' groups of people, and are therefore not to be treated with consideration for their well-being.

Is this our country now?
And how does the torment of these little ones make our country 'great again'?

Hitler promised to 'make Germany great again' and children didn't fare too well under his leadership either. When we do not remember the past, history will repeat itself. In some strange ways, it's the same old same old . . . and today's government-ordered torment of little children is like the canary in the mine, and I am heart-broken that evangelical people didn't rise up as Christians, to speak out and stand up for what Christian people cannot see, and look away, and remain silent.

The silence of many in the evangelical community over the abuse of these border babies is deafening.
To speak meant to be told to be quiet about 'politics' by some claiming the Christian faith, as though they saw the sad children as collateral damage, expendable small sacrifices . . . but to WHAT?

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