Remember the old Burger King slogan, “Have it Your Way”? You know, the mantra that gave us permission to order our Whopper with ketchup and pickles – but hold the onions.
Well beyond a fast food burger, there are a lot of other things I’d prefer to have my way – to my liking, on my terms, and at my convenience.
Case in point: I love people. I’m in my happy place sitting down with you – whether you’re a stranger or my best friend – tucked away in some back corner of a coffee shop, in our oversized chairs, sipping a latte. Just you and me, talking life – the good, bad and in between. But there are some moments when I’m stressed and tired, and rather than care for someone else, I really want to be a recluse for the day. My preference would be to pick up a good book, watch some 24 re-runs, and turn the phone on silent. When challenge or fatigue kick in, my wants and needs suddenly become loud and clear.
And just last month, I had another run-in with this inconvenient reality. Sitting in a half-full, hospital waiting room, I was holding my breath for some big news. Just two weeks earlier, my mom had been diagnosed with the dreaded “C” word – cancer. A pea-size tumor was found in her breast, and doctors would be performing surgery to remove the tumor. Today was the big day.
When challenge or fatigue kick in, my wants and needs suddenly become loud and clear.
I sat in the waiting room watching the clock. Just two hours for the surgery to be completed, I had been told. To keep myself from going stir-crazy, I found myself a little corner of the room and engrossed myself in a new book. The topic? Discipleship: digging into what it means to follow Christ, how to become more like Him, and make His name known. I was hooked. So much, in fact, that I didn’t even notice the surgeon approach me. “What are you reading?” she asked.
It’s a straightforward question. And talk about a golden opportunity to share the good news of the Gospel! I had her undivided attention to tell her SOMETHING … ANYTHING … about Jesus.
I’d like to tell you that in that moment I answered her directly. Maybe telling her I was trying to better learn what it means to follow Jesus. That I wanted to learn more about what it means to live like Him and love like Him. But instead, I hesitated.
My first instinct was pure selfishness. I wanted to know about my mom – how she was doing, did they remove all of the cancer, was she going to be okay? I panicked, avoiding the surgeon’s question altogether, and I retorted with some lame response about how I liked to read all kinds of books.
In that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudging– “Jaime, I gave you an opportunity. Why didn’t you take it?”
By then, the surgeon was already giving me a run-down of the operation, assuring me my mom was well and I would get to see her in a few minutes. And as quickly as her simple and unassuming question had come, she was off to care for her next patient.
In the moments following this encounter, a familiar passage came to mind: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15). I’ve been reminded of a hard truth: loving and serving others is easy when it’s convenient, on my terms, and in my timing. When loving and serving means being challenged, stretched and stepping outside of my comforts, it can be hard and taxing. But that’s exactly what we’re called to do and what Jesus modeled for us.
Jesus did not pick and choose when He would love, serve, and tell others the good news of the Gospel.
Think of moments when He walked this earth – like when He went up to a mountain by the Sea of Galilee after being with a crowd of thousands for three days straight (Matthew 15). Put me in a crowd for three days, and I’m ready to go M.I.A! But the crowds still followed Jesus. And what did He do? He healed and fed them. The Bible tells us He had “compassion” on them.
Think back to the night before Jesus was betrayed. He knew His final hours were coming, and instead of ducking away to be by Himself, He spent time with the disciples, even serving them by washing their feet (John 13:1-17).
And there are plenty of other examples.
His testimony is clear: Jesus did not pick and choose when He would love, serve, and tell others the good news of the Gospel. He used everyday encounters – those that were convenient and inconvenient – to minister to those around Him.
Are we seizing those golden opportunities God places in our own lives or choosing to make excuses to justify looking the other way? Do I wait to share Christ until I go on an Exposure Trip? Or do I welcome questions from my non-believing coworker? When you have a mentally unstable neighbor, do you avoid him out of fear? Or do you look for opportunities to befriend him?
There will be a next time, and another and another – and I pray that in those moments, we’ll jump at the chance to share the Source of our everlasting and eternal hope.
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Image credit: Bohbeh, 123RF Stock Photos