Rite of Passage: Confessions of a slow learner
For these last 12 years, I have lived out my life before you. I have shared my heartaches as well as my joys. In my current season, God is teaching me three things: 1. Everybody matters to God. 2. Since I have God’s spirit within me, everybody should matter to me, too. 3. One day, Jesus will matter to everybody.
I am a slow learner, so my Father teaches me in small chunks. I have been making a list of everyone who matters to God. What kinds of people touch His heart?
I began my list with the book of Mark. There, I learned that fishermen, people with unclean spirits, mothers-in-law and people with leprosy all matter to Him. And that was only the first chapter! As I continued reading, I saw that a man possessed by a legion of demons, a short man, a crowd of hungry people and an epileptic boy all mattered. By the time I reached the cross, I discovered that a thief and a murderer mattered to God. All I could do was stare at my list and say to myself, “According to the Scriptures, everybody matters to God.”
I wish I had done a better job of teaching my sons this truth. In spite of my inadequacies, they have done more to live it out than I have. My oldest son, Jeremiah, came home from junior high one cold day without his winter coat. I immediately ripped into him. Quietly, he told me he had discovered that one of his classmates had no coat, so he gave him his own. Jeremiah knew he still had an old coat in our closet. He was willing to wear it so his friend could be warm.
As I type this, I still feel the shame of realizing my son had a better grasp on those who mattered to God than his dad. My younger son has the same heart. Nothing makes me prouder than them telling me about the ways they help “the least of these.”
My friend, Nathan Blackwell, is pastor of Cornerstone Church in St. Cloud, Fla. I have preached there on several occasions, and our lives have become intertwined. His daughter, Ashley, served with me in Panama and will return there in April. His son, Adrian, is pursuing a residency in Emergency Room medicine in Allentown, Pa.
Nathan and I were eating steaks at his home last week when he took me into another room to show me a recent e-mail from his son. Here’s what it said:
“I was sitting in front of Arby’s when ‘it’ walked in. This cross between a ‘he’ and a ‘she’ came through the door, a rather large person, decked out in a green hoodie, a pair of tan slacks and flip flops.
“I chuckled to myself as I made fun of what I ultimately assumed must be a woman due to the general body shape and long monster hair.
“As I waited for my sandwich, the woman sat down in the back. Several minutes later, she stood abruptly and exited, but not before digging through the trash can across from my table. She pulled out a half-empty cup of soda and slurped down its contents. The Spirit immediately convicted me of my attitude. This woman was obviously homeless and suffered from some type of mental disorder. As I watched her leave the restaurant to trudge beside the highway, my heart shattered.
“Moments later, the counter clerk called my number. I grabbed my order and ran after the woman I had scorned. When I caught up, I told her she had forgotten her sandwich.
She stared at me, bewildered. I shrugged my shoulders and told her, ‘That’s what they said at the counter.’ She smiled a small smile of broken teeth, took the sandwich and walked away.
As I shuffled back to Arby’s, something happened. Deep in my heart and spirit, I received God’s forgiveness and grace. I felt the intense compassion Jesus has for people of poverty and loss. And what little love and joy remained in my heart, I returned to Him.”
With tears of joy, the father gave me a copy of his son’s letter. We need to teach our children what it truly means to be followers of Jesus—that whosoever matters to God should matter to us. And we need to teach them to write and tell their fathers what our heavenly Father has done through . . . the least of these.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.