Freedom to Serve in the Moment Provided

Last week, as I was hurriedly leaving one job site to drive frantically over to the next, I had the “bad luck” to be drawn into the very-real problems of another human being, the presenting issue at hand being a broken retractable dog leash.

Involuntarily, I felt my inner heart pipe up: “Seriously?” Surely no one expected me to be late to work just so that I could stop and help someone figure out the spring-loaded mechanical intricacies hidden inside the spool of a crummy old dog leash? And, as it turned out, nobody did. Everyone involved in the incident immediately understood that yes, getting to work on time is important. I could quite easily have gotten into my car and driven off with my cherished “Not a Bad Guy” credentials intact. But that’s not what happened.

Jesus Heals a Bleeding Woman

Jesus Heals a Bleeding Woman

The problem – for me – was that the person asking for help was someone I knew – not well, but enough to know that she was a regular at a community shelter for the homeless. Making matters worse, this was someone I had called by the wrong name not two or three weeks earlier, embarrassing myself and (no doubt) further convincing this woman that she was “invisible” to those of us who drive our nice cars from one extremely-important destination to the next. Making matters worse, the leash had been lent to her by a friend, and it was obvious she was dreading what she imagined that encounter would look like when next they met up.

Against my will, I was reminded of Mark 5:21-43, the story of the woman who suffered from chronic bleeding and had the unmitigated gall to interrupt the Holy Land itinerary of Jesus as He traveled to heal the daughter of Jairus, an important ruler of the synagogue. From the narrative provided by Mark, it is obvious that no one thinks terribly much of this old woman who dares to reach out and touch His clothing; everyone is irritated by this “interruption.” In their annoyance, the disciples even dare to rebuke Jesus: “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” (Verse 31)

The great challenge to me in this account from Mark – and, more to the point, in the working out of my own daily life – is that I must constantly ask myself whether or not I actually believe that God is sovereign over the tiniest details in absolutely everyone’s life. The problem, as always, is that my own will rises up to challenge the events of the day as they unfold, crippling my soul and shutting down opportunities to serve…if I will allow it.

As I scrambled to locate the tools needed to work on this woman’s dog leash, my mind (of course) raced with the “more important” things that I would rather be doing with my time. Nonetheless, working together, we managed to crack its case and dig out the lead so that the line could be repaired. It was a lot like working on an old fishing reel, and it didn’t go well for the first several tries. At some point, though, I felt myself exhale deeply and surrender the desired trajectory for my afternoon; I would stay put until things had been settled one way or another. I silenced my stupid iPhone so the relentless “Bing!” “Bing!” “Bing!” of my other life would just shut up for a few minutes and let me focus. In less than ten minutes, this woman’s dog had been reattached to a working leash. The look of relief that spread across her face was unmistakable.

Of course, the temptation looms large to one day tell my son this story and paint myself as some sort of Obedient Disciple of Jesus, but the truth is that my heart was not in it, at least not initially. It was, in fact, one of those moments when we are all glad that no one can really see what we are thinking. As this episode unfolded over the course of no more than 20 minutes total, I asked myself multiple times why I couldn’t have made it out of the parking lot just before the leash gave way. The attitude of my heart matched exactly that of the irritated disciples who were far more interested in making a good impression on Jairus…not good.

Later that day, thinking back on how earlier I had probably offended this woman by calling her by the name of another, my soul drifted back to sanity and I was able to thank God for the opportunity He had provided to perhaps ameliorate the relational damage caused by disrespect. It all happened while I was on my way to do more important things, or so I thought. Not one of those other priorities suffered as a result, and it all unfolded in a manner that I could never have engineered.

Christ frees us to serve in His time, within the boundaries of His good creation, but only if we are open to the possibility. What last week showed me (yet again) is that He is so gracious, He will even break down the door of a hardened heart that has only recently begun to open up.

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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