I think that we all have moments where patience wears thin like those jeans that you can buy already ripped with holes. I never understood the importance of paying for a ripped pair of jeans that someone intentionally cut for appearance. The crazy thing that I think about is that in most cases, jeans that come with holes in them cost more. Less material, more costs. I don’t understand the logic, but clearly fashion pays a price for beauty. The even more bizarre irony is that I am tying this chapter from the backseat of the van, on my way to church, and my laptop is sitting on my legs. Underneath the laptop, I am covering up the holes that expose my knees. So, I don’t understand it, but I have embraced it. Funny that.
Nonetheless, my patience wears thin, but God loves to teach me His highest and best in these moments. Furthermore, people that don’t click with my confused and unreliable character really annoy me. I don’t know what it is within me that rises to the thin patience level of ripped jeans, but I am trying to identify why it rubs me the wrong way. I was at a church service in Melbourne, Victoria, while on an awareness campaign to share about the poverty that I live around in Peru, South America. I had the opportunity to share about what is happening with my soccer team and the Christian counseling program. After the end of the service, I was making my way toward the back of the church. Bluntly stated, I worry about how much time I have to get connected with people before they head out the door, done with church and God for the week. Strictly from a business perspective, it is crucial to make contact with people that support and believe in the vision and purpose of ending global poverty. I wanted to talk to those people at the back of the church. I am well aware that for the financial fruitation of programs for our loved ones, money must exchange hands to continue. In my flesh, I worry sometimes about how that money will reach the program. I don’t like that aspect of the job, but it’s the job, and it requires work. Its like being a salesperson for vacuum cleaners. I need to “sell” the idea of helping people. If I don’t, our loved ones suffer. It’s a strange concept to “sell” a ministry because there are lots of other ministries that are doing the same thing in other parts of the world. I guess it helps to concentrate on asking Christ to lead the way, as I have. In this process, after this day at church, I was relying on Christ to show me the way, when somehow He wanted to teach me a very, what I thought, inconvenient lesson. I was pissed. I didn’t like the rude awakening that purpose His ways were higher than mine. I didn’t want to be reminded of this because I had bigger fish to fry. A lady who clearly, from the physical to the mental to the emotional level, wasn’t going to be able to contribute one cent or idea that would further the work of my “sales” pitch or to the cause of ending global poverty. She stammered, stuttered, and raved about the dying people in Africa. In this moment, embarrassingly so, I didn’t give a shit about the dying people in Africa, I just cared about the people that I loved in Peru. She had some learning disabilities and clearly stated the obvious, she wasn’t going to be of any help to me, or so I thought.
“you know,” she told me. I figured I didn’t. “I loved what you shared about helping those who are less fortunate,” she continued to stammer her way through chaos.
“Ah, thank you,” I superficially exclaimed. I knew this was going to be a painful start to an excruciating conversation. I know that you have had these experiences where you just want to somehow creep out the back door so that you don’t have to talk to that person that annoys you, but shit, you’re in church, and how can you be rude to someone in four walls of God’s house, that in the street, you’d just piss on as you walk by. She continued to stammer,
“My husband is African, and I’m going to visit him over in Africa,” she smiled. Critically assessing the situation, I realized that she had been scammed by some poor African man that knew how to get money out of a naïve Australian country lady, “He was having problems with his visa and he asked me to wire money to him for his plane ticket and for his visa,” she went on.
“Oh,” I replied, while looking for that person at the back who I knew could help the ministry. I tried to look interested in what she was saying while at the same time, attempting to eyeball the money at the back.
“You know, I have realized that I don’t have much. I know that God will use me to help people too. I want to be involved in ministry, but I don’t have much resource or ability to help,” she flinched and went on, “I started to question how God may use me, and I started to doubt if God even wanted me to help others less fortunate than me,” she started to get watery eyes. I knew this was going south. I knew that I had to get out of there before I got asked to get emotional. She interrupted my judgmental train of criticism.
“I realized that God could still use me, even though I don’t have much,” she smiled at me and with that smile, I thought, how could God use you, “I was at the grocery store last week and I was walking through the aisles, getting milk and bread, you see, I’m on a government assistance program to get basic foods,” and while she continued, I could see that her clothes were faded and worn, “I was heading toward the checkout lane to leave the store when I knew that God told me to get air freshener. Now, air freshener is not covered by the government assistance program, and I didn’t have much money. I didn’t know if I could really get the air freshener, but I plainly heard God telling me to get it. I thought that maybe I was going crazy,” she laughed. I couldn’t agree more with her statement.
“I went back to the laundry aisle and found the air freshener. I went back to the checkout counter and got my groceries and paid for the air freshener with my own money. I went home and started to unpack my groceries. Just as I was picking up the air freshener to decide where to put it in the cupboards, there was a knock at my door. I went over to the door and cracked it open. My neighbor was standing there, in tears. Her toilet had flooded and the bathroom was in ruins. The smell reeked and she was frantic because her husband’s parents were coming for afternoon tea and dinner. She said the smell was so bad through the house, that she so embarrassed. I knew that in that moment, I could help,”
I, standing there with such conviction in my spirit, thought I was going to have to sit down to hold the weight of God’s love flooding my soul. Here was an innocent women, sharing with me her heart about the provision of God while I, a guilty, judgmental hypocrite, wondering how I was going to get out of this situation to go and look for the provision of God. My heart was heavy with grief. I had been such a selfish, conceited, and rude Christian. I began to feel sick to my stomach with the obvious self inflicted reality of my sinful nature. I was no better than anyone else, in fact, I was worse. How could I have been that mean? Not only had I wronged this woman, I had wronged Jesus. I know that what I do unto others, I have done unto the Father. I felt horrible. Jesus had used the simple faith of this woman to crash my wall of pride. I was humbled. I’m a small vapor of wind that can be snuffed out in a simple wand of the finger of God. The lady continued to express the wonderful love of God and how He had revealed Himself to her through the can of air freshener.
I wonder why do I judge people by the first glance? I am one of those horrid people that form first opinions based on my own self-initiated agenda. I despise this of myself. I am so sad that I do this and I have to repeat in my mind, the mind of Christ. As I watch the transformational process in my journey, I see that Christ is working on me and will continue to do so until my last breath. I pray that Christ will give me the opportunity to attempt to reconcile my past mistake. I can only hope that I’ve learned my lesson. I see people in my home church that people ignore. You know the ones. I have a friend who has some physical disabilities. She is one of the most beautiful people and has a heart of gold and love for others. At our church, people go on and on about helping those who may be forgotten. The pastor talks about bringing everyone into the family and to include all. We all sit and clap at the programs of outreach and evangelism, but oh how quick we judge. How quick we walk by those in our own church that we think are a little strange. How fast are we to say, “Sorry, I’ve got to get home and prepare lunch,” just so we can excuse ourselves out of a annoyingly long conversation. I do it. I did it. I don’t want to do it again.
Those people that may be a bit different than you, or that have a personality that just doesn’t click with yours. These are the very people that Jesus uses to teach us the lessons of life. I have learned more from those that I have initially judged off my list of value than any person who I thought had value. What an incredible example of the power of the resurrected Christ. Oh that I would decrease in my journey so that He would increase. I guess it’s a part of the process of learning. What would I do for a ripped pair of jeans. What those who see ripped pair of jeans as worthless, trashed, and poor, may have more value than those freshly made jeans with all of the material still intact. Yes, I paid more for the rips, but oh the lessons I have learned through the cuts and rips of my journey through life.