|By John DeSisto|
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’” Matthew 25:41-45
A few weeks ago I was standing in the back yard talking to our new neighbors. A worn out looking man walking through the field behind our house came up to us and said, “Excuse me, I know y’all don’t know me, but can you give me a ride to the bus station?” He was carrying a zippered notebook but nothing else. The neighbors looked surprised and said nothing. I felt uncomfortable and said, “No, sorry, I just got home for the day.” I gave him some general directions to the nearest major street and told him to look for bus signs when he got there. He mumbled a thank you and ambled off in the general direction I pointed.
I finished up my conversation with the neighbors quickly because I regretted how I’d handled the situation. Since the sermon series on how God communicates with us, I have been praying especially for God to show me how I can serve others and be the hands and feet of Jesus. He’d just answered that prayer, but it wasn’t at a convenient moment, so I dodged the opportunity. I’d refused to help the least of my brothers and in doing so had denied Jesus himself. I had an inkling of how Peter must have felt when the rooster started crowing. (See Matthew 26:31-35; 69-75)
When the neighbors left, I looked up the street and saw the fellow still walking, so I jumped in my truck and drove to the mailbox, figuring his path would take him to the same place. I got there first, retrieved the mail and sat there thinking how I could offer the ride he had requested. God apparently decided that one rookie mistake for the day was enough. The fellow walked up to me and said, “Are you sure you can’t take me to the bus station?” This time, I readily agreed and told him to hop in.
He was having an intense conversation on his phone trying to mediate some kind of a dispute between what I guessed were his daughter and her mother. I got his attention long enough to learn that he wasn’t from Colorado, wanted to get out of the state right away, and planned to go by bus. He had no backpack or extra clothes, just the little zippered notebook I saw earlier. He looked (and smelled) like he’d been traveling outside for a few days without a break.
I thought about how I might offer to help but he was completely preoccupied with his phone call and had little interest in talking to me. As soon as we arrived at the RTD station, he got out. I gave him some quick instructions about how to get downtown so he could catch a Greyhound bus to wherever he was going. He thanked me and went over and sat down on a bench, still focused completely on the discussion he was having with his family.
I’ve thought a lot about this encounter.
I believe that God shows up in our lives on his schedule, not ours. God had just given me a glimpse of what life can be like when I turn my schedule and convenience over to him. I felt empty when I’d treated this fellow as if he and his needs were less important than chatting with my neighbors. I was redeemed and fulfilled when God gave me another opportunity to get it right.
I’m sure I could have done more but I hope I’ve learned from this experience.
God, show me how to watch for the doors you want me to walk through, listen for your voice, and create space in my life to follow your will when you choose to reveal it to me. Amen.