Sunday, July 26, 2009

Five Stories - Part IV

Have you ever felt like just walking up to a stranger, striking up a conversation with them and finding out what their story is? We all have "stories", don't we? Some of us are just beginning to put the first few chapters together, and others are completing a set of volumes. I find that sometimes I just have an attraction to certain people that I see in public. Not a physical attraction, but spiritual. I want to know more about them, where they come from, where they are in life and what chapter of their story they find themselves on. Something tells me that their story and my story need to cross paths and intertwine, if only for a few minutes. But unfortunately, I often ignore that "still, small voice" and retreat further into my own cozy little reality. After all, this is the way we are supposed to be in American culture, right? As history progresses, each generation becomes more isolated and our "stories" become more two-dimensional and monotone. That makes it difficult to "Love one another", doesn't it?

I haven't been spending as much time in my favorite Starbucks over the last couple of weeks. When I started writing these "Five Stories" blogs, I was haunting my local Starbucks almost every night. My favorite chair had become my lazy-boy and the ottoman my desk. I began to really enjoy these times because it gave me a chance to just observe. One thing that I really dislike about myself is my tendency to slide inside the Christian bubble and blind myself to what's going on in culture in general. Being in ministry does this to you sometimes. But I have found that I grow more spiritually when I am outside of the church setting.

"Love one another". I'm beginning to hear this in my sleep. "Love one another". These words of Christ penetrate my thoughts almost every day. As I walk through the everyday path of life, people drift from one end to another. Lives cross paths, but seldom are stories revealed, shared, enjoyed and meshed together. I think this is what frustrates me the most. I mean, you don't have to be a Bible scholar to understand that God calls us to not only "live" in community with one another, but also to grow, develop and flourish together. Unfortunately, all we tend to do is share proximity, rather than intimacy.

The forth story of "Five Stories" is rather simple. There is not much there because I just could not seem to scratch below the surface. A young lady was sitting toward the back of Starbucks, intently reading over technical material, dressed in hospital scrubs. She caught my attention because she looked as though she was utterly disconnected from her surroundings. I tried to make eye contact as I ordered a refill of my iced coffee, but it was as if there was a barrier around her. I walked past her table, making as if I was getting another napkin, but nothing. I returned to my chair and continued to observe.

Finally, I walked over to her table and asked what she was working on. Startled, she looked up with a surprised look on her face. "Huh?", she replied and I repeated my question. She mumbled something about a licensing test next Monday, but made no real eye contact and no real interest in talking with me. I asked if she wouldn't mind me praying for her and asked her name. She shook her head, but said, "Sure, if you want to." I never got her name, but as I walked away I heard her say, "I'm sorry, but I'm just really scared right now. It's just this stuff." She pointed to her books and papers. I reached out my hand to shake hers, and cupped it with my other hand. "I'll pray for you.", I said, and went back to my chair. That's as far as she was going to let me in. And I sat there with iced coffee, closed my eyes and prayed.

Scripture tells is that "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,". (1 John 4:18) Just before this, in the same passage, it says that "God is love." We've been talking about the whole "Love one another" issue, right? God is saying that He is love. The essence of His being is love. And because God is good and perfect in all His ways, we can deduct that fear cannot exist in Him. So fear and love cannot coexist. Finally, we are commanded to "love one another" by Jesus Himself, which we all know, we don't do as often as we could. "Love one another"

I don't know if my efforts quelled the fears of this young lady. Maybe my efforts weren't enough. What I do know is that fear existed in a community that I was a part of. And my hope is that God, being the perfect manifestation of love, intervened in a spiritual connection with this lady, and broke through the barriers of fear. If only for a few moments.

"Love one another".

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