The sustaining face of God

Former 4th graders Gayle Christmas and Stacey White with Mr. H and wife Vicki at St. Paul Alumni Reunion.

“When we genuinely, happily serve in unacknowledged ways and places . . . we find the sustaining face of God.”- Sara Hagerty, Unseen

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and you life is hidden with Christ in God.”- Colossians 3:2-3 (ESV)

My anticipation and excitement grew daily as the weekend of the St. Paul Alumni Reunion drew closer.  Since St. Paul Lutheran Church and School (Dorchester) in Chicago called me to my first teaching position in 1974, I treasured the opportunity to reconnect with a very special place and time.

At the Friday evening meet and greet, as well as the picnic on Saturday at the school, I forged new friendships with four students from my original 3/4 class.  My wife Vicki and I also toured the school.  And for the first time in 43 years, I stepped into my assigned classroom.  Right at the top of the stairs.  As I stood there, I found it hard to imagine that 32 children actually fit in that room!

Most noteworthy, blessings overflowed as I talked with my former students, amazed at the strength of their relationships, maintained and rooted in faith over 4 decades.  Furthermore, the alumni encouraged me through their welcoming spirit and resolve to see St. Paul continue as a beacon of light and hope.

St. Paul established it’s roots in the Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago in 1889.  Under the sustaining face of God, St. Paul remains one of two Lutheran elementary schools still operating on the South Side.   In addition, St. Paul’s vision statement proclaims their calling a “light for the community, providing active support through praying, caring, sharing, and outreach.  Hence, over the past 128 years, St. Paul’s roots still endure, anchored deep in the knowledge of God’s love.  As a result of this hidden, underground growth, St. Paul’s branches bear fruit in and out of season.

However, in the aftermath of a ministry downsizing or vocation loss, we must avoid falling captive to the allure of living for the next big thing.  For the chief end of every human being is to glorify God.  Also, as Sara Hagerty exhorts in her most recent book, Unseen, the sweetest greatness begins as we’re rooted, made, and nurtured in secret.  Where God alone sees us.

Yes, Sara notes, great kingdom impact results from dramatic and observable actions.  Yet, we understand God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him or do it under our own power.  Most importantly, the foundational basis of kingdom impact comes from the cumulative moments we spend:

  • looking at God
  • bringing Him glory in private
  • letting Him shape our insides

In conclusion, Ms. Hagerty observes, these two kingdom impacts aren’t mutually exclusive:

“It is instead about a glory we can’t always measure.  It is the work that happens beneath the surface, deep in the soil of our hearts, that in time produces a great harvest of fruit and growth.”

All under the sustaining face of God!

About the author

Dave Henning

  • Miriam Watley says:

    For you created my in most being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my uniformed body;
    All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
    I’m so on board with Sarah. God doesn’t need us to do His work. Rather He needs us to find Him, deep within our soul, in that private place. All the rest flows from that. Right?


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