I’ll be driving to Houston tomorrow morning at 7:30am so I’ll keep today’s Scripture-thon a bit short (1am edit: oops. please pray for a safe and alert drive)
People often say that New York is a lonely place. Even though NYC is the densest city in America, with 66,940 people per square mile, you can go an entire day without a single human connection. Walking down the streets, eyes are pointed straight ahead, as much to navigate as to avoid the passerby in the periphery. Squeezing shoulder-to-shoulder into subway cars, eyes search and focus on any empty space, to avoid the fatal risk of eye contact.
Rush hour at the Court Square Subway Station – Monday, February 17
Even interactions with service workers are stripped of human connection – at the deli counter, pleasantries are forgone for shouting “rye, BLT, swiss, tomatoes, lettuce.”
A Mexican Deli in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY – January 15
But I’m a Texan who’s used to smiling at and greeting every person I passed during my suburbian morning walks. Of course, it would be impossible to extend verbal wishes to the throngs of people that fill New York City’s sidewalks. But just out of habit, I’d smile and ask “how’s it going” to those that smiled back at me.
I would certainly get self-conscious at times. But the moments of genuine connection precipitated by a smile made me recognize how this “Texan-ness” was a gift.
One of those moments was on a subway car heading back to Brooklyn from a late night at school. I was ready to settle into a state of half-podcast-listening, half-sleeping as the stressful day had pressed all my energy out of me. But as I stepped onto the car, I saw a man jamming it out in the back. The growing New Yorker instinct in me almost made me ignore him and crank up the podcast volume. But then I saw the shameless joy he had and it reminded me of how David shamelessly “danced before the Lord with all his might” in 2 Samuel 6:14.
I did a couple dance moves back at him, almost forgetting the business suit and backpack I was wearing. When the train started moving, we sat down and shared about each other’s lives. He shared with me about how he grew up in the projects as a Christian, but left when he saw the hypocrisy in the church and started having doubts. He started pursuing spirituality on his own by trying to find the best combination of drugs and meditation to achieve spiritual fulfillment. I got to share about how I used to share the same doubts he had, but worked through them and found that my faith answered them far better than any explanation the world offered. And I agreed with him in the church’s hypocrisy, and how I saw that the brokenness that taints the American church merely demonstrates our need all the more for a savior. And thanks to a tunnel construction delay, God provided time for me to pray for him to find true fulfillment in the gift of Christ.
Moments like these that could have never been planned show me evidence of God’s hand working in my life. Even as I can attribute some parts to my Texanness, other moments like dancing on a subway train can’t be attributed to anyone but the Holy Spirit. It’s even more extraordinary if you’ve seen me dance before – I get my lefts and rights mixed up doing the Cupid Shuffle.
But most of all, I can’t imagine how I was able to converse so much with him. It was almost certainly the Holy Spirit working through my awkward Asian-American personality and giving me the words to say (Luke 12:12).
Looking back, I realize that embracing who God made me is far more genuine than any contrived mission to look like a saint before others. Just as I couldn’t pull off anything besides the Texan I was born as, living my life as a child of God is far better than any other identity I could invent for myself.
- Pray that the spiritual emptiness in the worldly pursuits of our generation will lead them to find fulfillment in the Lord – for their cup to go from empty to one that overflows (Psalm 23:5)
- Pray for Christians who are worried amidst this time of crisis to find peace and comfort in their identity as a child of an all-powerful God.