What’s Before You?
“He [Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:2
Wesley’s grandmother, Lillian, was what some people call “a character.” She was a mountain woman who spoke her mind, plain and simple, no flowery language, no extra niceties, just the truth, served up straight. Whenever we had a family gathering where food was involved, the spread would go out on the table and before we were allowed to help ourselves there was a prayer followed by the pronouncement: “You see what’s before you.” No frill, no extras, this is what you get—eat it or leave it.
I started thinking about her signature phrase in relationship to what God’s call is on my life. Each day, God puts people in my path—friends, neighbors, customers, patients, people of all ages, sizes, races. He gives me and each of us the opportunity to minister by using our gifts and tells us—you see what’s before you, now get to it!
Human pride leads us to look for that extra special work, the ministry that will change the world, reach the millions—even billions—for Christ. We are reluctant to expend our energies on the one needy soul in our care, the person with memory loss who can’t appreciate us, the little child who makes the same mess every day, the frustrating parent who calls too often.
Henri Nouwen, the great priest and theologian, spent the later years of his life working one-on-one with a handicapped bed-bound young man. He left teaching at a university and gave himself over to this humble work. “What a waste!” our self-serving egos might scream rebelliously but Nouwen continues to reach many today through the authentic love conveyed in his writing—authenticity acquired through self-sacrifice, truly “laying down his life for his friend.”
You see, God doesn’t differentiate between the lonely soul next door and someone who we might characterize as more worthy. God’s math, which doesn’t always add up neatly in our score-keeping human mind, finds equal value in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Sometimes we like to think that we need special preparation to minister—maybe some kind of degree or experience—but God says, “Not so much. Just do what I put before you today.” Some of us are called to go get special training but most of us are called to simply step out in faith every day and treat our neighbor with true love, right here, right now.