By Kirsten Adshead
Photo credit: Charlie Adshead
A guy bikes past the picnic shelter; a grandfather plays catch nearby; a family enjoys a meal two tables away.
And Arik and Tina Johnson, sitting down for an interview at McKee Farms Park on a warm, breezy Friday, are certain that it’s all part of God’s plan.
“If everything’s just random, then God doesn’t expect much of me, does he?,” Arik said. “‘God expects me to be a good person, and to lean on him when I need Him, and go to church on Sunday.’ That’s kind of it, right?
“As opposed to ‘God is calling me into the world, every second of every day.’”
If that sounds like something Pastor Jeff and Amy would say … Well, that’s not a coincidence, either.
Arik and Tina met the Meyers in 2015 and participated in the Meyers’ missional leadership program, which Arik said has transformed his family’s missional life.
His mantra has become Watch, Notice, Respond, Celebrate.
“Be watchful for what God’s doing, notice when it happens, respond in the way you think God’s leading you and then make sure to tell other people what happened.”
It boils down to the question: “What’s God doing with this?”
Not that they always learn the answer.
But asking the question engages them intentionally in the lives around them.
“At first, when you make that assumption that God is working through us all the time, it’s ‘Well, that’s pretty overwhelming,’” Arik said.
“It STILL is!”, Tiina laughed.
Awareness doesn’t look the same, person to person.
“I think when I’m out in the world, I just try to really be in the moment,” Tina said. “If I’m at Pick ‘n Save and I’m in the line waiting, I’m usually looking around. I’m often praying for people in line, especially if I have to wait.”
“Instead of being frustrated that things are taking so long, I’m praying for this one and that little one. I can hear someone crying in the back, and I’m praying for them.”
Arik works from home a lot, for Aurora WDC, the professional services company he founded in 1995.
“It’s seldom in a day that a conversation doesn’t end with a prayer and an ‘I love you,’” Arik said.
But only when it’s natural.
“God’s not calling me to turn them into a Christian,” Arik said. “That’s not what that’s about. God’s calling me to try to love them like Jesus loves them.”
At the park, for instance, Tina said, “I don’t think we’d be, like, ‘Hey, let’s go to that group and that group and that group. Because that’s sort of our agenda then, if it feels sort of pushy instead of receptive.”
“Part of loving them as Jesus would love them and does love them, is for me to surrender my agenda, surrender my pride, my need to win,” Arik said. “All of those things are secondary to whatever God has led that person to me for.”
Arik guesses that for every 100 opportunities God puts before them, they probably notice 50, respond to 10 and celebrate one. Maybe.
But God does the coolest things when they follow where He leads:
“We just bought a spot, about an acre and a half on Washington Island. We were up there last weekend,” Arik said. “There’s this clearing area towards the back of the property where there’s this logging trail, and so we decided we’d set up camp back there. And the first night we’re there, some dude comes walking through and he’s, like, ‘Sorry! You guys are camping in my walking path!’ Tina met another woman the following day, and then by the third morning, it had rained all night long, and we just wanted to go home. And this dude named Lars strolls up and starts this big conversation. … We put ourselves in their path, quite literally, and now we’ve met three of our neighbors.”
Tina laughed, “But it completely freaked me out at first. We looked like squatters. … But once we stopped and reflected on what was happening, then it was, ‘OK, OK, this is an opportunity.”
“It was,” Arik said, “a recognition of how God led us.”