Responsively Yours: Signs of Emmanuel
Have you ever looked for a street sign in an unfamiliar place and been unable to find one? We look where we think the sign “should” be. I’ve been in towns where the signs are on the corners of the buildings and in towns where they hang in the middle of the street. Once you see one and understand where to look, you can find them easily. Often if we expect the signs to be black and white, we can’t see the green or brown ones that are right there. It can be difficult to see the signs when we “know” what we expect to see.
Perhaps that’s why it is sometimes hard to perceive where God is at work. Somehow, some of us have gotten the idea that when God is at work in our lives, we won’t suffer. We may not express it just that way, but sometimes we act as if we expect God to insulate us from illness or grief or the natural results of our own or others’ bad decisions. The Bible doesn’t show God insulating the Hebrew people or the prophets or even Jesus— but the Bible does show us that we can count on God to walk with us and strengthen us.
If we expect the result of God’s work to be a “charmed life,” we may not recognize signs that God is at work.
The same can be true for learning. We expect to learn from folks who have advanced degrees or high positions. But if we think that these are the only people from whom we can learn, we will miss the wisdom and the knowledge that is all around us. And, since women face disproportionate barriers to attaining advanced degrees and high positions in many fields, there would be fewer women from whom we would expect to learn. Knowing this, when United Methodist Women engages in mission with people all over the world, we listen and learn from people—especially women—with all sorts of practical as well as formal knowledge. We learn from village women in far-away places and homeless women in our own communities. We are applying the same practice to our work on building our “refreshed” organization. There is wisdom everywhere. The national office has the great opportunity to learn from members working in local, district and conference groups as well as from “experts” in organizational development and to share what we learn with you. The whole organization grows when we experiment, learn and share what we learn.
Advent is a good time to look for signs in unexpected places. Even though the Hebrew people were anxiously awaiting Messiah, only a few recognized Jesus, born in unexpected circumstances. May we have eyes to see the signs, knowing that God is with us—Emmanuel!
Harriett Jane Olson
United Methodist Women