Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all
friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

C.S. Lewis, from
The Weight of Glory

Three men in one week. The first was a middle-aged man with a weathered face sitting in the corner of Wendy's with a super-sized drink. His back was to me, and I was busy with two boys covered in Frosty and ketchup and a baby who wanted out of his carseat. But that was no excuse.

The second was an older Asian man in the children's book section of the library. He was obviously lingering there after his ESL class, trying to learn some English words from simple, children's books. He smiled at the boys and watched us with interest. I was chasing boys around the library, trying to keep them from pulling books off the shelf, and bouncing a fussy baby. But that was no excuse.

The third was in the Chick-Fil-A playground. A guy my age was arguing over the phone about his marriage, presumable with his wife, while his son played. I was trying to get my boys to get their shoes on and head out the door. Baby Linus was growing impatient in his carseat. But that was no excuse.

No excuse. I am certain now that my life intersecting with the lives of those three men was not an accident. I heard His voice telling me so. Telling me to go to that man in Wendy's and say that God loved him, though I thought it was just some crazy idea in my head at the time. Telling me to sit and talk slowly and patiently with that man in the library, and I was a bit more sure of it that time. Telling me to pray for that man at the playground and offer him a kind smile and some help with his son. Then I was sure. And I DID pray for him, all that day and every time he has come to mind since then. But I never did open my mouth to talk to any of them. Lord, have mercy.

I thought about these men this Sunday when our pastor mentioned the horrible, violent attacks in our nation this month. I wondered who those killers were. Were they men who were sitting in a Wendy's who needed to hear that God loved them? Were they immigrants who felt rejected by our culture, unable to acclimate, isolated, and angry? Were they young men whose lives were falling apart because of lost jobs or broken marriages? Were they people to whom God wanted to speak but found no mouthpiece? Lord, have mercy.

Despite my less than serious attempt at Lent this year, it seems God desired to bring me face-to-face with some of my sin and open my eyes to my place in the greater work of His kingdom. In learning to get over me, to see beyond my own perspective, I am being led to see beyond my own four walls and into the places I so casually choose to go. There are no accidental meetings in this life. Whether I have specific messages from God for them (which happens more than we may know) or just the love of God to show in daily acts of kindness, every person I interact with is brushing up against the presence of Jesus in me. What would happen if I stopped letting myself get in the way? If I opened my eyes to see His kingdom work? If I opened my mouth to speak His words of healing and grace? What would happen if all of us who had His Spirit did?


evenshine said...

This was great. I think your conclusion is spot-on: Easter is the time when we remember how He moved, and if we're open to it, the God of the Universe moves through us. Blessings!

Em the luddite said...

I once went to a prayer meeting soon after a high school shooting. One of leaders of my church was praying, "God, we cannot understand what would make a young person want to do something like this..."

I thought I would extend him grace, because it had been a long time since he was in high school. I can imagine.

I was touched by your ponderings about the men involved in the shootings. Indeed, we brush shoulders with people who may be those people every day, just like every high schooler brushes shoulders with a potential suicide victim or shooting perpetrator.

Isn't it interesting how many random nobodies are in the gospels, how many strangers off the street brush shoulders with Christ and walk away changed?