“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
One Sunday morning, just after I arrived at church, a young lady came in and sat in a pew near the front. I saw that she was deeply troubled, and so I approached her. Apparently that morning, she felt the need to go to church and asked a worker at the shelter where she was staying for a nearby church. They pointed her to ours. She left early and walked — not exactly a short distance.
Because I was the music minister, I had important duties, and my time was limited. However, I could tell that this lady needed someone to stay near her because she was so distressed. That put me into turmoil. I was concerned about her, but I also felt the pressure to fulfill my own church responsibilities. To be honest, I did not have time for this lady. I remember thinking about how she was “invading” my time and my job. Then I remembered how, in the Bible, the Pharisees had a tendency to chase away the down-and-outers who “disrupted” their religious activity. I realized that I was no different.
During the pre-service time of singing, she cried, laughed, shook, and threw her arms into the air. Throughout the service, I used every available moment to sit with her and hold her hand. I was worried about what she would do. She clung tightly to my hand. The Scriptures, the music, and the message all seemed to speak deeply to her. She responded with sounds of crying, laughing, joy, and relief. I was thankful that she did not disrupt the congregation (who mostly sat back further).
After church, I took her for lunch and discovered that her life was an unbearable mess. She had lost all meaningful relationships. Her children had been apprehended by the Children’s Aid. She had endured brutal abuse for years. She no longer had any reason to live and had planned to end her life. That all changed after her morning at church, because she was touched by the love of God, and she found a reason to live again.
She showed me her artwork — lots of pictures that she had drawn as a way to process her inner pain. Her work was that of a child’s level, but obviously very precious to her.
Then she gave me all her crayons — all eight of them — wrapped up in a tissue, and she requested that I donate them to the children’s program. I strongly resisted, realizing that drawing was her way of releasing her pain. But she insisted. Literally, this lady gave us all she owned — at the moment anyway — her most precious possessions. That reminds me of the poor widow in the Bible who gave the only two coins she owned. In Jesus’ eyes, her offering was bigger than anybody else’s that day.
Someday, you or I could be in a situation like that woman’s — desperate and needy. If we walked into a church, wouldn’t we want someone there to come and stand by our side and share our pain? Wouldn’t we want, more than anything in the whole world, to know that there was a reason to live yet one more day?
Prayer: Lord, liberate us from self-absorption so that we may live the golden rule: “Do to others what You would have them do to You.”