Recently, some friends accused me of compromising the gospel because of how I relate to people’s experiences and their stories. I don’t often call-out ‘sin’ in people’s lives, but instead, I walk with them and offer counsel as they ask. My philosophy is that I earn the right to speak into their lives as they see I sincerely care for them and am on their side. Psalm 23 resonates on many levels for me. “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) is my favorite line. Do you see its beauty? Paths. Plural. More than one. In my belief system, for me, there is only one way to God and that is believing Jesus. BUT, that’s not the sum of the beautiful, wondrous story of salvation. So much more awaits us as we journey into oneness with each other and with God. No one story will look alike. Snowflakes, all of us, unique and yet appearing the same on the surface. Yet, no one path contains the full mystery of God’s grace, God’s righteousness, God’s kingdom! Many paths lead us to Jesus.
Sometimes I want my path to be the path where everyone finds God’s glorious treasures. Surely, my tailor-made blessings from God would fit anyone. How many of us have seen The Grand Canyon and gasped at its breathtaking grandeur? I talked with a long-time family friend who visited that majestic tapestry of God’s handiwork and thought, “Eh, it’s just a big hole in the ground.” Seriously?! Someone experienced that divine creation differently than I do?! A neighbor of my parents is an entomologist. She has bug specimens all over her house (EEEEWWWWW!!). Now, I have three kryptonite-level phobias. Fear of bugs tops that list. I even created a theology, of sorts, about bugs–they are a result of The Fall and epitomize sin entering the world. They are NOT found in heaven (and we need to be quite clear on that point–except maybe butterflies, fireflies and ladybugs). However, the neighbor sees God in the world of bugs and can actually worship Him in thinking about their creation. Puzzling to me, but it’s not my path. Could paths leading to our heart’s refinement be just as diverse? Could God actually use His gift of mercy in me to lead someone else on a path to His righteousness which wouldn’t be found by overt ‘evangelism’? Am I willing to admit that my ‘witness’ is flawed and not a one-size-fits-all for God to use in everyone’s life?
A few weeks ago, I went to a store looking for some art supplies for my son to finish his art project. Because the store is large and poorly laid out (or brilliantly laid out to get people to buy more–depends on perspective), I traversed for 15 minutes before giving up and finding an employee to ask directions. While the woman answered my question, she seemed to have a heavy heart. I asked her if she was okay before going on with my agenda. Her son, a security guard for an apartment complex in a rough part of town, had been shot early that morning and the store wouldn’t let her leave work. Thankfully, the bullet hit his bullet-proof vest; but, naturally, the woman wanted to see her son. After empathizing with her for about 10 minutes, I hurried to finish my original art supply errand. Driving home, the shame began to creep up behind me. I should have prayed with her. I should have mentioned Jesus. I should have witnessed more…better…overtly. That evening, still beating myself up for missing an evangelism opportunity once again, I believe God spoke peace into my spirit. She needed to vent and process. She needed someone to enter her world of concern and worry. She needed someone to soothe her soul in that moment. In that moment, my gifting became God’s presence for her. In that moment, God met her. If God needs her to hear more overt evangelism, He’ll send someone else down her path. Someone He’s trained with that gift.
What if God wants me to just lay the groundwork for another to ‘harvest’? What if a person needs to learn to trust in the unconditional love of God before he or she can hear correction? What if someone’s perceived ‘sin’ by us is not God’s definition of ‘sin’ or biggest concern in that person’s life? Can we hear Jesus’ words to Peter when he hears what his future will hold and asks Jesus about John’s future, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” (John 21:22) Are we willing to follow where we see or hear Jesus leading us regardless of how someone else’s path looks or to whom another is called to minister?