Two-hundred days ago I left Los Angeles with nothing but a duffle bag full of clothes, a laptop and a car. I drove across the country in search of faith in America. In search of God in the streets instead of the church, relying entirely on the kindness of strangers for survival.
Day one on the road: The car breaks down in the middle of the desert four hours into the trip. My campsite at the Grand Canyon: buried beneath nine feet of snow.
Was I supposed to turn around and go home? I thought God had clearly spoken to me. That this was my calling. This was it. The adventure of a lifetime in the name of God. But I’ll admit, sometimes I can’t distinguish the difference between God’s voice and my own personal agenda.
Standing there in the snow at the Grand Canyon, I still didn’t know who I was looking for or how to even find them. What did faith look like, exactly? And was I supposed to preach the Gospel everywhere I went? Or give a dollar to every homeless man I encountered?
Maybe I’d done the wrong thing.
Or maybe God just wanted to see how far I was willing to take this thing with Him.
A week later and I’m on the cold bathroom floor of some stranger’s home in Seattle, ravaged by food poisoning, spilling my guts for 24 hours. There’s nothing quite as humbling as cleaning up your own vomit off a toilet that doesn’t belong to you, then doing it all over again in 20 minutes. There’s also nothing quite like that to convince you, once again, that maybe you’re doing the wrong thing.
“Max, maybe this trip isn’t about you,” Nick, a student at Moody Bible College said to me over breakfast a few days later. I could barely stomach the eggs and toast. “What if God sent you across the country to change the life of one man? One individual who might never know God if you didn’t cross paths with him. I like to think the God we serve is just big enough to orchestrate that.”
I decided to continue on no matter how hard it might get. Because maybe Nick was just crazy enough to be right. Maybe this wasn’t about me.
God took me from the canyons of Utah to the mountaintops of Denver, and into the homeless streets of Savannah.
On the road I packed myself inside of dark punk rock clubs with drunken, tattooed strangers jumping around to post-hardcore rock. This is where David, a young man selling merchandise, told me in the moments before the band took the stage screaming incomprehensible words, “Well, if you’re looking for God, you’ve come to the right place.”
I met Lonnie, a man who willingly chose to be homeless. A man who loves his life, and the people he’s surrounded himself with. He hangs out on the park benches, feeding the birds and befriending the homeless. He encourages them to pick up a phone and call their family. He gets them to churches on a Sunday morning, and gets them bus tickets out of town to start a new life.
In Tampa, sitting outside in the thick, Florida air, I had coffee with Amanda, a mother of three, who has died twice. She took a final drag on her cigarette, finishing a story of death, addiction and sacrifice. “I finally fear God,” she said. “So now I am finally getting to know Him.”
I prayed with neighbors in Philadelphia on a rainy Tuesday morning for the city streets right outside their front doors.
I sat at a dinner table in Kansas City surrounded by young married couples smoking cigarettes and strumming acoustic guitars; breaking out into a quiet worship because they could not contain their love for their Savior—a God they knew deserved to be worshiped at every opportunity.
I listened to young men tell of their struggles with pornography, and young women who were mad at the church and at the men in their lives.
In Washington, I sat with Tim at a bus stop in the rain. A man, it turned out, who just wanted someone to ask how his day went.
I saw the homeless, the broken and the defeated silently cry out for help.
I gave what felt like an unappreciated blanket and pillow to a man sleeping on the concrete sidewalks of Washington, D.C.
I sorted through dirty, donated baby clothes to be picked over by mothers on welfare and food stamps just trying to keep their children warm.
I attended stripped-down churches with no lights or sounds and quiet worship. And I gathered with thousands to sing His praise on a Sunday morning.
Two-hundred days later, I now know what faith looks like.
I know that it’s easy to lose because we only go looking for it in our own lives.
We are so consumed with ourselves that the moment we believe God has failed us individually, we believe He has failed us all. If God doesn’t exist for me, He doesn’t exist for you either.
But He has never left us. And has not failed us.
For God is in every footprint, on top of every mountain and swimming through every wave in every ocean. He spills Himself out over us in every sunset, and knows the name of every star in the sky. His voice speaks in every gust of wind. He’s in every lightning storm and every homeless shelter. He is in each of our stories, and is concerned with you and every second of your day. He sits at the dinner table, and hangs out on street corners.
And I believe He is faithful.