Reflection by Ruth Padilla DeBorst. Art by Chris de Hoog.
“In bondage to decay, groaning in labour pains” – the Bible’s description of creation in its current state is bleak.
We don't have to look far to see evidence of the broken state of our world. A billion people are trapped in poverty, families are torn apart by war, communities are divided by hatred, and the earth's life support systems are being stretched to breaking point. Our world is crying out for God's Kingdom to be made real, now.
To capture this feeling of suffering, I have painted a harsh, barren landscape that is devoid of life. The trees are thin and stretched, and figures are depicted as individuals wandering around, trapped in a kind of no man's land, lost and without community.
Now Romans 8:22
By Ruth Padilla DeBorst
I live in Central America, where the levels of violence have destroyed and disrupted so many lives. A number of years ago, my family experienced the intensity of this when my husband was murdered. My children and I had this sense that we had been given a second life, that we were granted an extension on what might have ended. And that brought a keen awareness to the importance of every moment you live. We only have the moment we have, and God calls us to be faithful with it.
So much of Christian thinking is concerned about what will happen in the future. Yet the call of Jesus is a call that is immediate, contextual, in the midst of the messiness of life. It’s about embodying the presence of the Kingdom in the midst of those uncertainties. People talk about ‘carpe diem’ and ‘grab the moment’ to justify doing what they want without much thought for the future. But our call is to grab the moment and live fully into God’s purposes for the world.
As I reflect on this theme, this prayer [adapted here, originally shared by Archbishop Romero of El Salvador] leads me to serve God faithfully now, entrusting the rest to him.
God, show us how to plant the seeds that one day will grow.
To water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
To lay foundations that will need further development.
To provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and our work may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for Your grace to enter and do the rest.
Remind us that we are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Ruth Padilla DeBorst is a wife, mother, theologian, missiologist, educator and story-teller living in an intentional Christian community in Costa Rica.