Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Wipeout and the Search for God’s Presence

Written by: on October 6, 2021

The life of an overseas field worker is like the constant walking across a waterbed. It isn’t very stable or steady. But overtime and with practice one gains a sort of sea legs that is able to adjust to almost anything. There is almost an expectation of flight delays, travel challenges, and unanticipated changes to plans. However, since arriving in the USA this time, I have had this sense that the adaptive and anticipatory skills I have acquired have been knocked out from underneath me. It has been more like one of those reality TV shows where the participants need to navigate an obstacle course while avoiding being knocked into the water by the arms of various machines. Those arms seem to come out of nowhere when the contestant least expects it, to whip them out.
I arrived here for a study sabbatical season, only to discover I have been in the middle of running that gauntlet. The ever-changing housing situation due to Covid, pressure from my sending agency, and relentless health challenges have whipped me out.
Beyond all that, there has been a profound sense of homelessness. A rootlessness that is void of sanctuary, familiarity, and one’s own place of belonging. It is intensified as I attempt to navigate a medical system I no longer understand. I am fatigued by the perpetual battering of the gauntlet arms and the feelings of defeat from yet another wipeout. I am aware that my search for home is that deeper cry of the inner soul for that eternal presence of God that satisfies.
There is something deeper and more significant going on. A profound grief and loss. I am an outside observer who is watching the rapid deterioration of my beloved homeland. The place that has represented freedom, truth, and opportunity to so many around the world. Today, looks more like the Communist world of Eastern Europe.
Everywhere I look I am confronted with the effects of the loss of freedom due to the absence of virtue. The freedom to choose that has led to a decadent lifestyle in pursuit of personal gain and pleasure at any cost. Governmental systems that are corrupt, empty store shelves, health care that is cumbersome, and big church buildings that are partially filled. Fear is driving God’s people to be at each other’s throats over masks, vaccines, and mandates. Augustine observed the deterioration of the republic of Rome. He claimed it was due to those who governed lost sight of justice and the need for ruling for the benefit for all it’s people. He claimed that a society cannot just be founded on the principles of God but must also be submitted to Christ’s rulership to be sustained. This requires the individuals of the society subject their free will to God in order to reside in the presence of God and to develop the character that can maintain righteous and just society.
The city of God is that place where freedom is wrapped in the very nature of Christ. Where the perfect love of God drives out fear, so that His people can receive life, hope, and transformative grace. It was these characteristics of God’s virtue that resided in the hearts of Christians behind the Iron Curtain, resulting in its collapse.
As I further contemplate Augustine’s writings, I have a number of questions. I wonder how much of what we currently hold dear in the church is truly sacred and how much are creations of our humans and the traditions? How much of our seeker friendly church environment is feeding the drive of the selfish nature to consume? Have we played into the hands of the flesh nature by making salvation a simple decision without the daily pursuit of a life of sanctification, resulting in an absence of godly character? And in turn robbing God’s people of the satisfaction of a life lived in the presence of God?
My heart’s prayer is that the people of God would set aside our decadent lifestyle for one of holy sanctification. With hearts that are set on being unified in Christ for the expansion of the city of God by walking into the darkness in the fulness of His virtue.

About the Author


Denise Johnson

Special Education teacher K-12, School Counselor K-12, Overseas field worker in Poland,

2 responses to “Wipeout and the Search for God’s Presence”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Insightful post, Denise. You have a great view of the movements happening on a global scale right now. While it’s unnerving to see Democracy in retreat, it is somehow reassuring that Augustine also witnessed a similar unraveling in his day. Political, economic, and social upheavals come in cycles, it seems, and looking back to learn from history about how Christians positively affected their culture is helpful and even inspiring. “Set aside decadence and grasp sanctification” Good advice.

  2. Elmarie Parker says:

    Denise, thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post on Augustine. Thank you also for your vulnerability in sharing your grief over what you see happening in the States as you return for a while from being in Poland for so many years. I resonate with your experience…I too am feeling that disorientation as I enter a USA space from the Middle East…so many questions! Thank you for your closing questions. If you had to choose one to sit with in prayer, which one draws you the most right now? This one catches me the most: “Have we played into the hands of the flesh nature by making salvation a simple decision without the daily pursuit of a life of sanctification, resulting in an absence of godly character?” I would add that this has both individual and communal dimensions to discern.

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