God doesn’t wait for the ‘religious’ to stop at the roadside. He calls the unexpected to spread grace to his children… those who don’t quite fit the mold, those whom some might even judge or look down on because of their lifestyle choices.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
I leaned out of the truck window with my heart breaking, tears running down my face, looking back through the noise and the traffic desperate to keep my daughter’s face in sight. Her small frame, looking so out of place standing on the unfamiliar city street amidst a sea of people, traffic and noise. I knew her heart was breaking too. Every fibre of my being wanted to stop, turn around and go back, scoop her up and bring her home to safety and comfort. The anguish I felt that day was worse than the pain of labour when she first entered the world. Similarly, this too was a new beginning. This was the day that she moved away to the big city for post secondary education. Knowing her large and sensitive heart, I knew she too was feeling the pain.
On the 70km drive home, (and for many a night prior to this day), a thousand questions plagued my mind. Who would come alongside my girl? How would she cope with her food allergies? Would she find a friend? Would she eat well? Would she be able to sleep in a strange apartment with four other roommates who she had never met before? Many a parent has had the same experience.
There were hourly texts. She was afraid of walking through the city. The area of East Hastings in Vancouver is not the best part of town. Homelessness and drug addiction is widespread. Many lost and broken souls, mere ghosts of their former selves, live and die on the streets, many of them desperate and persistent in their need and requests for money or food from passers by. The spiritual atmosphere of that part of the city has a darkness you can feel without needing to know your location. My kind-hearted, spiritually sensitive daughter, a vulnerable target in unfamiliar territory, was frequently approached by these tortured souls and began to live in fear of walking alone to and from her apartment. She also shouldered immense loneliness, far from home in a large city where she knew nobody. The feeling of being totally alone yet surrounded by people can be a desolate place!
So, we prayed, frequently and on the phone. With several weeks to wait before classes began, and roommates already on courses who largely kept to themselves, I prayed for a friend for her. Someone to come alongside and show her the ropes in this big city. A companion.
Naturally, I expected God to bring believers alongside, or at least for our Christian friends who frequent the city to pay her a visit, but it wasn’t to be. One of the great things about God is that he often chooses those we least expect to minister to his children. In the Bible, he almost always chose unexpected people to share the message of the Kingdom and bless his followers. Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, was so hardened against Christianity that he persecuted believers appallingly, yet became one of the greatest apostles whose teaching changed the world. The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at a well, whose culture did not associate with Jewish people, practiced adultery and false religion (John 4:18 and John 4:22). Yet after their conversation, she shared news of Jesus and was responsible for the evangelism of many in her village (John 4:39). Again, it was a Samaritan (despised by the Jews during Bible times) in the story Jesus told, who saved the life of an injured traveller on a road when religious leaders simply passed by.
Perhaps I should not have been surprised then, to learn that the person God chose to come alongside and minister to our daughter was a (self declared) ‘agnostic’ member of the LGBT community! An acquaintance whom she had met briefly some years before in a costume competition. Drew (not his real name) is almost 10 years older and works in the city. He met our daughter and took her for lunch and showed her around town. Like an older brother figure, he met her regularly for the first few weeks, for lunch or dinner, and walked her to and from her apartment until she was used to it. He showed her the good areas to shop and how to get a travel card and navigate the transit system. He took her on the sea bus and the SkyTrain. He encouraged her to ride the transit to areas she had never been and met her at the station. They had coffee together, shopped together and laughed together until she felt confident and settled. Even after she started school, he continued to be there for her and meet her if needed and continues to be an incredible friend to this day, for which this mother’s heart is deeply thankful. This mother who expected a Christian. This mother who had her own pre-conceived ideas as to who was worthy to look after her daughter.
Mercifully, God doesn’t play by our rules! Thankfully, God delights in opening up opportunities for others to minister to his kids, (Samaritans or otherwise)! He delights in those who are willing to do his will! Unlike this mother, he doesn’t wait for a perfect person with the right credentials to come along. He doesn’t wait for the “religious” to stop at the roadside. He will use the willing heart. The heart that loves. He calls the unexpected to spread grace to his children! He often chooses those who don’t quite fit the mold, those whom some might even judge or look down on, or question because of their lifestyle choices.
In being there for our daughter and helping her, Drew was serving the Lord. Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for him (Matthew 25:40) Opportunities to serve the Lord and minister are not limited to a certain class or type of person, or even “religious” people. In one instance, Jesus even said that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering heaven ahead of the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 21: 31) because of their willingness to hear and do His will.
Two feelings arose in my thoughts following this unexpected answer to my prayers for my daughter. Firstly, that God will use anyone for his purpose who is willing to serve and obey, Christian or otherwise, and secondly that we would all do well to change our thinking towards those who are different, and love without discrimination, just as our Lord loves. The gospel is for everybody and overcomes the barriers man often puts in place. The Kingdom of heaven turns human convictions upside down and inside out! It is a Kingdom where the first will come last and the last will come first (Matthew 19:30), where actions speak louder than words, and where, diverse members of minority communities might just enter the Kingdom before the righteous!
PRAYER: Lord I love how you use unexpected people to minister to your children and open up opportunities for everyone to serve you. Help us to let go of our preconceived ideas as to who is worthy for the work of your Kingdom. Forgive us where we have judged or looked down on others simply because they don’t fit our mold. Help us to embrace those whom you send and open our hearts to respond to all members of society with your grace and love. We pray for Drew and all those whom you send, that they will come to know and accept you too and one day enter your Kingdom. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Several instances come to mind in the Bible of God using people we would think of as “unbelievers” to speak to His men, e.g.Abram in Genesis 12 and 20, and Moses in Exodus 18 (though I note that Jethro did offer sacrifices to God).
We have this year had a number of media stories in the UK about nativity plays. These are an English tradition in our pre-school and junior schools. One of these stories was about pushy parents fighting to get their offspring the starring roles. For any lit c0 tle girl in the UK, playing Mary in the nativity play is a major triumph, it is the Christmas glamour role. How ironic when the real Mary was an ordinary girl called to a very unglamorous role, giving birth in a cattle pen, fearing for her life as an unmarried mother. As humans we are good at taking God’s challenging message and turning it into something that fits with the very different human values of celebrity, glamour and prestige. The very opposite of the message Mary brings. Indeed this is what I fear our celebrity conscious and highly sexist news and social media are already trying to do with women bishops judging by the BBC footage of Libby Lane’s appointment which began with a close-up shot of her shoes and ankles, through to the many negative comments online which are entirely aimed at her appearance. Mary knew that God chose her against any expectation as a rejection of sexism and celebrity culture. As she faces the reality of becoming a public figure in such a culture Libby Lane needs our prayers and for us to challenge this culture.