Not Okay

Rain or shine, sleet or snow – he was always there. Sitting on a bucket-turned-upside-down as a stool, I would drive past him on my way to the post office in the small community where I live. He always made eye contact. He sometimes smiled. He usually waved or nodded cordially in my direction. Once he tried to bum a cigarette from me, but I was powerless to help him out with that one. He was a fixture there, at the crossroads of neighborly concern and I’m-late-for-an-appointment, but until yesterday, I didn’t even know his name. It was Bob.

Weed-Wacker Bob.

I turned the corner toward the post office yesterday and noticed an empty spot on the shoulder where he would normally sit. Instead of the elderly, white-haired man with a weedeater, propped up against the fence in a sea of political signage was this sign:

Weed Wacker Bob Memorial

And it made me sad. It makes me sad. And it makes me ask questions – some of which make me uncomfortable today.

What was my responsibility to Weed-Wacker Bob? What I mean is – as a child of God with resources to share, should I have given him something? The only thing he ever asked me for was a cigarette. And the opportunity to whack my weeds. I gave him neither. Instead, I smiled and waved and drove right on by. Year after year. After year.

How did he die? I wonder. Was he alone? Did he have a family? Friends? Loyal landscaping clients? There must have been others who actually stopped and talked to Bob, maybe giving him a job or a ride or a cigarette. Right? Someone else surely has been picking up the slack all these years for Weed-Wacker Bob… They must have!

But what if I’m wrong and everyone else on their way to the post office smiled and waved and drove right on by – just like me?

I set the bar low with Weed-Wacker Bob, and yet Jesus says:

“Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (The Message)

I am faced on this day with a mirror of sorts, found in the pages of God’s Word. I don’t need to ask myself what I want from others – I know I set the bar high in that department. And there was clearly no initiative-grabbing going on in my head – no doing-it-for-them as I smiled and waved and drove on by.

And this is not okay.

I am not okay! I am disobedient, selfish, apathetic and lazy, but I am not okay.

I am in need of rescue, just like Weed-Wacker Bob and everyone else who has ever found themselves in a puddle of regret and despair and at the end of themselves. And yet – thanks be to God! – this is right where He wants us to be:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

That is good news, because today I’m feeling pretty darn less of and in desperate need of God’s more-than-enough.

Rest in Peace, Weed-Wacker Bob. Rest. In. Peace.

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Hold On Loosely L4L.12

yes!!!

The WORD

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42 (New International Version)

Sounds… painfully simple.

“When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.” (The Good News Translation)

This philosophy on life and living must have been easy for Jesus – He owned the clothes on His back. We never hear about Him owning a house or a boat. He never talks about His possessions, which leads us to believe He didn’t have much.

No goats. No sheep. No business. No emergency stockpile of food and supplies.

Not really a stretch to live this text literally when the physical things that others may need just can’t be found in your garage.

We, on the other hand, have garages and cupboards and closets and houses FILLED with things that may be needed by others. When someone asks to use something you have, Jesus is saying that the only answer to come from your mouth should be, “Sure!”

The APP

Now, this works well in some situations – like when the borrowed item is a duplicate or something I don’t use every day. But what about when the item is important to me? Something that I need? A practical help in my home, or a treasured gift from someone I love? How could I possibly let that thing out of my sight?

You’ll cringe (as I am), but the idea of entitlement creeps into our best intentions to put these words of Jesus into practice. Entitlement and ownership. I made it! I bought it (after saving up for months)! It belongs to me!

Picture clenched fists. Picture hands on hips. The stance of an owner.

God knows this is an area where there is plenty of room for me to grow, and over the past months He has given me an opportunity to get it right. You see, the stuff that I possess is becoming easier to let go of. Material things mean less and less to me as I grow more and more in the image of my Lord. I would almost say I had learned this lesson, but I would be wrong.

Because it’s not just about things that come with a price tag.

One of my life’s passions is creating environments and opportunities for women to really connect with God. I have a number of retreat curriculum that I’ve created over the years, and I guess you could say they’re my babies. Born of intense research, gut-deep passion and the guidance of the Spirit of God, these materials are attached with a sort of holy umbilical cord to my heart. If you listen closely enough, you can hear my heartbeat in those pages. No kidding.

My vision for using these materials has always included me. Me as the teacher, me as the leader, me as the one who puts it all together. It makes sense that it would be that way, since God chose to use me as the vehicle to deliver them from thought and idea into function and form, right? I faithfully wait, then, for the right timing to be able to put these amazing teachings of God into events that will move women closer to His heart. Opportunities have come, but they haven’t overwhelmed me. I am patient, after all, knowing that God has a plan to complete the work He has started… and then an email arrives.

An email from a woman I have never met. She has heard about me and my retreats. She has been praying for an opportunity to reach out to the women in her church. She knows this is the answer to her prayers – our connecting over the idea of retreat. God has led her to me and the work I’ve been doing. This isn’t just her take on the situation – I see God in it, too. His Name is written all over it.

It’s not a stretch for us to meet – she even offers to make the drive to my home, for my convenience. I’m excited and eager to share with her about my vision for what God is doing in this work of my hands! Maybe this is an opportunity for me to bring all of this goodness to another group of ladies! Confirmation that I was right – this is my calling, after all!

There’s just one problem. The women my new friend wants to minister to only speak Spanish, and I don’t.

In spite of my gifts, my passion and my enthusiasm, it becomes clear that this is not my gig. And the beautiful woman of God who sits beside me on the sofa is practically oozing Spirit and energy for this ministry! It’s gorgeous! God Himself is visible in her love for the women in her church, and she’s asking to borrow the materials I’ve created, in order to make it into something He can use HER for…

I could clench my fists, put my hands on my hips and say, “But it’s MINE!” After all, I did spend months preparing the talks, the activities and the projects that this pile of papers represents. My prayers, my study, my willingness to be used by God made this curriculum possible, right? But to take an owner’s stance would be to claim the glory that is God’s alone, taking credit myself for something that GOD HIMSELF has done.

If all that I have comes from God, then nothing I have is really mine.

It was a defining moment in ministry for me, the day I handed over those valuable pages to one who will use them for the fame and renown of our Lord. In those moments, I chose a steward’s posture, opting not to cling to God’s work but to set it free.

Holding on loosely to that which wasn’t mine to begin with.

This Lenten season, in keeping with the challenge to take Jesus at His Word, lighten up! Loosen your grip on the stuff of this world and instead, choose to live generously out of the true abundance that is ours in Christ.

After all, this is exactly what Jesus did for us.

He held His life loosely so that we might receive the benefit when He gave it all away.

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