I began the afternoon with a need to pray but not really knowing what for. I know to pray for the needs of others and the church and myself but today I sensed that this was not the day to pray for the usual. This was a different need. Since I didn’t know that need, I began praying the scriptures. I just opened my Bible randomly and began. The scripture for this time was Isaiah 61:1-3. Wow…I love Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
I meditated on the words anointing and poor but all my mind could see was love. Why love? Doesn’t even mention love. Maybe since I have had God’s love on my mind lately. I understand the concept of anointing and anointing for power to preach… but I began to think that maybe something like love could change a person much easier and more completely than preaching-even good preaching. (umm sorry to some of you ; )I wondered if it was necessary or helpful to be anointed to love— in a radical way? To love like God loves? Could God’s radical love flow through you if you didn’t feel particularly anointed to love? Or is everyone equally gifted in this area since after all, God is love. And what about the poor? Who are the poor? Why even call out the poor? It can’t be just an economic description although we can’t ignore that. It almost has to be the poor spiritually, the poor emotionally, the poor physically? How does God want us to take care of the poor? There are just so many. In fact, could not most people be found poor in some area of their lives…so are we not called to care for what would seem everyone? Everyone!! All of them? What is He saying?
As I finished prayer, I picked up a book that has been a source of devotion for me for the last weeks by Henri J.M. Nouwen titled Here and Now. This was part of what I read:
“Jean Vanier, the Canadian who founded a worldwide network of communities for mentally disabled people, has remarked more than once that Jesus did not say: ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor,’ but ‘Blessed are the poor.’ Simple as this remark may seem, it offers the key to the kingdom. I want to help. I want to do something for people in need. I want to offer consolation to those who are in grief and alleviate the suffering of those who are in pain. There is obviously nothing wrong with that desire. It is a noble and grace-filled desire. But unless I realize that God’s blessing is coming to me from those I want to serve, my help will be short-lived, and soon I will be ‘burned out.’ How is it possible to keep caring for the poor when the poor only get poorer? How is it possible to keep nursing the sick when they are not getting better? How can I keep consoling the dying when their deaths only bring me more grief? The answer is that they all hold a blessing for me, a blessing that I need to receive. Ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister. What is this blessing? It is a glimpse of the face of God. Seeing God is what heaven is all about! We can see God in the face of Jesus, and we can see the face of Jesus in all those who need our care. Once I asked Jean Vanier: ‘How do you find the strength to see so many people each day and listen to their many problems and pains?’ He gently smiled and said: ‘They show me Jesus and give me life.’ Here lies the great mystery of Christian service. Those who serve Jesus in the poor will be fed by him whom they serve: ‘He will put on an apron, set them down at the table and wait on them’ (Luke 12:37). We so much need a blessing. The poor are waiting to bless us.”
Amazing. God put a whole new light on a piece of His Word for me; a whole new light in my heart. Is He beginning to answer my prayer and change my heart? A heart that has seen too much, heard too much and stopped really feeling some things long ago. Is He changing my skepticism, negativity and frustration with such a needy world by giving me a vision of the possibilities- the possibilities of sharing His love and sharing in His love and sharing Him? Even sharing His love with Him. Even sharing in His love by sharing Him. Strange thoughts to me.
Then it was as though God Himself were asking me these next questions…Melissa, how do you view the family that walks right past your house every day because they can’t afford the gas or the car to put it in? How do you view the homeless with their signs and cups? How do you view those that are so anxious and stressed that they won’t allow themselves to slow down and see Me even as they sit fidgeting in church? How do you view the prostitute, the drug addict, the gang member? How do you view the lonely? How do you view those in nursing homes or those in their own prisons of disease- those with Alzheimer’s or Aids? How do you view those that have just been beaten down through prejudice and hate and neglect? How do you view the housewife that seems to have it all but keeps herself so busy that she doesn’t have the time to really check her heart? Melissa, how do you view Me?
You know, I am just trying to get to the end of a very busy day and on to the next prayer meeting, but today I can hear God’s voice calling me to go by the nursing home to visit someone I haven’t checked on in a while. Someone I really only know as acquaintance but someone still so familiar to something within my soul. Because of old age and illness, I will probably never really get to know this person, but somehow we connect and she has something for me that I desperately need. I’ll leave work and make it happen and you know I honestly can’t wait because I know in my heart I am meeting Jesus there.
Isn’t it wonderful that those that a part of the world would consider profoundly lacking in some way are actually chosen by God to be bearers of a profound grace of God’s presence? Shouldn’t that give us all Hope? And as I run to that nursing home should I not be singing praises knowing that I am getting ready to have just a glimpse of the face of Jesus, my own Savior?
You know, I don’t have it together so please, please don’t think that I even think I do because here is the real test that is yet to be taken. If I ever pass it maybe then I will know for sure I have a revelation and understanding of a love that has changed me. Radical true love…God’s love flowing in me and through me.
The test- If I knew that Jesus was not going to be there today and it was just going to be a lonely lady in a tattered and soiled nightgown that would cling to me physically in desperation and cry out horribly when I leave. If I knew she would never ever remember my visit or my name (on this earth or in the next), would I still drop everything, sing praises, and go?