Divine Appointments

You might have been expecting a couple of blog posts over Holy Week from me, it being the most important holiday of the Christian calendar and all.  I wish I could have indulged you, but it also happens to be a ridiculously busy week for me!  Adding another sermon to my week really makes the time fly by (a sermon typically takes me 15-20 hours to study for and consider at this point…), and God put a few obstacles in the way that reminded me of the important things.

I really was planning on putting a post up on Thursday while my son was taking a private lesson at kenpo.  Really, I was!  It was going to be several links to good resources for reflections on Holy Week.  We got there on time, I had my laptop to write, and I was all set to go.  Then God nudged me in another direction and gave me a bit of a divine appointment.  When He calls we can’t get so busy that we don’t hear the phone ringing, so I put the laptop aside and answered the call.

I am very privileged  to help lead some of the kids classes at our training center.  I’ve been studying for about 4 years (technically 4 years next month) and have a green belt, which is “middle-of-the-road-almost-competent-but-don’t-get-a-big-head-you’ve-got-a-long-way-to-go” territory.  In Thursday class I mostly assist our instructor by helping kids with their technique, leading warm-ups, and occasionally covering for our instructor when he is out.  The kids like me for the most part and respect me, even though I tend to be the disciplinarian in class and make the kids toe the line. (one of these days I will get me a cool “Smokey” and morph into Gunnery Sergeant Hartman without the cursing) It’s a fun part of my life and I enjoy it immensely.

Thursday God used the relationships I’ve built there and the training He has given me to help a young woman (we’ll call her Trudy because I don’t know anyone named Trudy) in a tough spot.  I noticed Trudy sitting in a seat near me, staring off into space about 20 minutes before her class was to start.  That was odd; she’s not normally like that.  She had a bit of a pensive look on her face and wasn’t really “there.”  So I asked if she was okay.

She wasn’t.  She was thinking about the conversation she had to have after class and not looking forward to it one bit.  I know that my selfishness wanted to just give her a pat on the head and tell her to use the mat as a safe place, but I just couldn’t.  So I sat down next to her and asked her what was up.  That’s when this poor pre-teen told me that she had to tell her mom and stepdad that if they couldn’t stop fighting that she was going to go live with her dad and stepmom full time.  And the reason that she had to have that conversation was because after the last fight her mom had bruises all over her, and she was scared.

I was so heartsick when she told me what she was up against.  I mean, going through your parents divorcing is ridiculously hard all by itself.  (mine divorced when I was a baby, so I missed a lot of the grief but still got a lot of the fallout)  Having to integrate into two families is really hard.  Dealing with parents fighting is frightening for kids of any age.  Dealing with domestic violence is more than any kid can handle.  My heart just broke for this kid.  And as it did, I thought of what Paul tells us in Romans 12:14-17,

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

First I had to remember verse 17 for my own heart, because my flesh wanted to put a pounding on a man who thought he was okay putting his hands on his wife.  That ain’t how I was raised, and it got my blood boiling. (the old sailor in me is never so far away that he’s not available at a moment’s notice…)  More than that, though, I remembered that this kid in front of me, not even a teenager, was being asked to confront an authority in her life about his anger and his sin.  What a horrible burden to bear at such a young age!  I have kids her age, and thinking about them being in her shoes just tore me up.

I dug a little further and found some more stuff to make me think.  This family is a church-going family.  They are regular attendees at one of the largest churches in our area.  They come, sing some songs, listen to a speech, and head home in a car with a Jesus fish on it.  They have no enrichment class, no home fellowship or small group to hold them accountable.  They are adrift in a sea known as a megachurch.  This young woman wouldn’t even know who the children’s pastor or youth pastor of that congregation was. (my guess is that there are multiple people in that role; I am not bashing large churches here but this model of “church” allows this type of relationship a lot more easily)

So insert me.  I got to pray with Trudy and encourage her a little.  I got to offer her (and her dad) my support in a pastoral role.  No they don’t “go to my church,” but I am a shepherd within the Church, and that role never gets a day off.  It’s not what I do, it’s who I am.  It’s what I’ve been bought to do. (Luke 17:10)  I also got several other reminders from that divine appointment:

  1. The people around you in church are hurting, broken people.  Just because they look good and smile doesn’t mean that they aren’t suffering inside.  Look past the smile and get involved in people’s lives!
  2. Church is not about making a weekly pilgrimage to listen to a message and sing, give some money and go home.  Church only works when it involves getting to know people and being involved in their lives.
  3. Sometimes, though the cowboy in me wants to mount up and take care of some cattle rustlers, the best thing I can do is sit with someone who’s been hurt and weep with them.  Knowing someone cares is sometimes the lifeline that can let someone do the right thing in a tough spot.
  4. Regardless of what ‘”hat” I am wearing, I am always and foremost a follower of Christ, called to offer His mercy to a dying world.  I’ve been praying Micah 6:8 this year and asking God to show me how to love mercy; He listens.
  5. If I had been too focused on my own priorities I never would have seen a kid in need of some help.  I might have felt good about getting a blog post up and missed out on the significant opportunity God had for me.

I haven’t heard back from her on her confrontation, so this post isn’t wrapped neatly in a bow; I will ask when I see her next.

If you read my blog, please hear my heart: don’t get so busy that you can’t hear God calling you to help someone in need.  Look for those divine appointments.  They almost never come at church, and often come gift-wrapped in serious problems that someone else is going through.  You might be the lifeline that someone needs to make it through a tough spot, and God can use you to change the course of someone’s life.

4 thoughts on “Divine Appointments

  1. Right on! Getting busy, even with good things, allows better things to slip past and and the best to be overlooked entirely. John, thanks for setting aside your plans to include a post last week, so that you could be there for someone facing a situation that is beyond what anyone should go through alone.

    It takes time to get past the facade that we Americans are so good at and it takes the Spirit to help us discern how to best respond. We are called to imitate Jesus and so many times he ignored the obvious response to reach out to someone. Many times, it was someone that society dismissed. I wonder, who around me is being dismissed by everyone but our compassionate Savior?

    Thanks for the reminder to open my eyes…

  2. John,
    This touched a place in my heart so deep that I had to stop. I looked back and saw myself in that girl. I too poured my heart out to my youth pastor and was told “well not much I can do, so go home and deal with it” mind you it wasn't abuse against my mother it was abuse towards me in ways that I won't mention. THANK YOU….!!! Thank you for being a man of God that listened to her, and I know that you will follow up to see that she is alright and that she & her family are ministered to. Thank you also for putting your computer away and listening to God' call to a need that was right in front of you. I will be praying for “Trudy” and her situation and for you also. I pray that God will give you the insight to deal with the situation in the way that will show His Love to this family.

  3. JOHN:
    You are TRULY a BLESSING !!
    You have become someone whom I TRUST & RESPECT

    THANK YOU for being in MY life

    And for being my FRIEND

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