On February 19, 2012 Pastor Bill did something very unexpected. Actually, two things. The first, he asked all of us to stand with him at the altar. The whole congregation. “If you believe in Jesus as your savior, please come forth and stand with me. If you trust me to lead you, please come and stand with me, here, today.” And we did. We all flocked to stand with him. One by one. Hand in hand. Arm in arm. And as we stood, Pastor Bill, did the second unexpected thing. Pastor Bill cried. Right there. In front of all his followers, in the guiding hand of God, he cried.
Later, when Pastor Bill was walking among the people that are learning about God and all his majesty, through him, he hugged me. And his words, “I don’t know if I’ll get through this series.”
It is in his words of self-proclamation that one really understands this is not just a man standing in front of a group of people (young and old; large or small) trying to have his five minutes of glory each Sunday. Pastor Bill is a man of the truest integrity. And in his words, in his tears, he would fall down for you because God has asked him to stand before you and share in his glory, in his words, and to pray for your salvation.
This series might be the one to turn the minds on the other side. The utter innocence with which the message is delivered, through grace and scripture, might just keep the flock on their feet as the ship continues to sink. And at the leader, being held captive by choice, is God, through which he sends his message by those who have chosen to open their hearts and minds just a little more than the average person. Maybe a lot more.
We all hurt. Even God hurts. I remember growing up my Mom used to tell me, being the good Catholic girl she was, that rain is God’s tears. He uses rain to wash away the hurt, the filth, and to nourish the Earth. What can we do about the hurting of others? We may not see their tears but we all know that someone out there is having a bad day, a sad day, or a really rocky period in their lives. Nobody’s life goes without hurt.
The gate was called beautiful.
Acts 3: 4–7 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
There in front of this beautiful gate sat a man. He was not, what we would call, beautiful. He was unable to walk (probably misshapen in stature). He dragged himself about on his knees. He was a beggar that sat in front of Solomon’s court. He sat in front of the gate called beautiful.
What would you do?
Would you stop and help this man even though you think you have nothing to offer?
Pastor Bill, “It is hard to look suffering in the face. Wouldn’t we rather turn away? Stare in a different direction? Fix our gaze on fairer objects?
Human hurt is not easy on the eyes. The dusty cheeks of the Pakistani refugee or the wide-open stare of the Peruvian orphan.
Gerald “Skip” Baker served as a father to my young faith. He was 30 years my senior and blessed a heart as big as the Midwest.
I spent my first years of pastoring under his tutelage. One of our trips took us to a small church in rural Ohio (Wesley Chapel, one of the 5 churches that we were pastoring), just showing him where all of our churches were. He and I happened to be the only two people at the building when a drifter, wearing alcohol like a cheap perfume, knocked on the door. He recited his victim spiel. Overqualified for work. Under qualified for pension. Lost his bus ticket. Bad back. His kids in Kansas don’t care. If bad breaks were rock ‘n roll, the guy was Elvis. I crossed my arms, smirked, and gave Skip a get a load of this guy glance.
Skip didn’t return it. He devoted every optic nerve to the drifter. Skip saw no one else but him. How long, I remember wondering, since anyone looked this fellow square in the face.
The meandering saga finally stopped, and Skip led the man into my truck as we took him to a small diner and bought him a meal and then to a little market to buy him some staples to get him on the road to his destination. As we watched him leave, Skip blinked back a tear and responded to my unsaid thoughts. “Bill, I know he’s probably not telling the truth. But what if just one part of his story were true?”
We both Saw the man. I saw right through him. Skip saw deep into him. There’s something fundamentally good about taking time to see a person.
When is the last time you really looked at a person?
Not the shell that God put them in,
but into their heart and thought about their truth, their intentions, their hurts, wants and needs.
When is the last time you looked at a person without putting your own thoughts into their acts?