I’m honored to have been asked by our pastor to participate in his new sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is this week’s post:
The arena was jam-packed with women wearing their Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Saturday best. Their accessories matched their pocketbooks which matched their shoes which matched their Bible covers. An arena full of sopranos and altos and even a smattering of tenors harmonized during worship and their heads nodded during the lesson and their wallets poured out money during the love offering. Hands were raised in recommitment to Jesus and tissues were dabbed across blurry eyes and when it was time to break it was as if there was one giant exhale in unison.
We strolled through the Georgia Dome deciding what to eat for lunch, my friend and I. We dodged women in their Tuesday and Friday best with their accessories that matched their shoes. Some were impatient with the lines at the food stands, some were frustrated with getting their pocketbooks which matched their accessories bumped. Some couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough lunch-time seating for all seven hundred million women jammed into the arena.
My friend and I grabbed lunch and searched for a place to sit among the bright patterns and matching Bible covers. As soon as we took the first bite we saw him. He couldn’t have been more than 21 and he was dirty and his eyes were glazed and his shoes had holes and he appeared homeless. He walked the aimlessly amid the maze of nodded heads and tear-stained tissues trying to talk to the women, but was largely ignored or smiled at politely as they turned back to their conversation.
My friend and I looked at each other and I knew what she was thinking and she knew what I was thinking but we were both petrified of each other’s thoughts and afraid to say it out loud. I don’t remember who broke first, but the words rang loudly in our ears,
“Should we pray for him?”
Being relatively new in our faith it was impossible to believe that maybe we should actually do it since everyone else was pretending he wasn’t there and seemed largely unimpressed with his presence. And we expected they would know what to do and be more knowledgable about matters such as homeless boys crashing a Christian women’s conference.
We stood watching behind a column and played silly games with each other such as, “okay if he goes left then we’ll pray for him but if he goes right we won’t” and then we’d see him go straight or backwards or northeast or even southwest. After several minutes I don’t remember who broke first but the words rang loudly in our ears,
“Who wouldn’t want us to pray for him?”
We looked at each other and immediately knew the answer and then we both said it at the same time. “The devil.” One of us might have even then uttered a “darnit,” I don’t remember. We were both so very outside our comfort zone and scared to pieces about praying out loud and for a stranger. But we sucked in deep breaths that left us dizzy and walked away from our food and went to find him. And we sat with him in the midst of the harmonizing altos and sopranos and found out his name and that he was indeed homeless and was not that much younger than we were. We told him about a ministry nearby that loved on the homeless and told him to be sure to visit there. And before we lost our nerve and let the devil win we spoke the words that had been ringing loudly in our ears,
“Can we pray for you?”
He said yes and she prayed and I prayed and when we were done he was so thankful. And she and I walked away with tears in our eyes and love in our hearts and joy in our steps and we couldn’t believe we had actually done such a thing as pray for someone we didn’t know. In public. And we couldn’t believe we were amazingly ecstatic about it. And when we turned around he was gone and we never saw him again.
The women at the conference – the ones in their Wednesday best and matching everything – I know they loved Jesus. I saw the love in their hearts as they harmonized their praise and in their tears as they dabbed at their eyes with tissues and in their wallets as they gave. Their love was deep and pure and unashamed.
But in filling up in love they missed an opportunity to pour out in love. Not so they could boast or think they’ve reached a level of ultimate spirituality…but to experience what Jesus must get to feel all the time – a love that consumes your whole heart and threatens to erupt into pure joy and loud laughter and hard clapping and boisterous glee. When you step out in His name and do what you think He might have done Himself if He were there…you get to participate in the celebration that always follows.
I don’t know if the boy’s life was changed because we prayed for him or not, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that our lives were changed because we learned that day what it meant to be doers of the word and not just hearers of the word and to do unto others as He has done unto us.
If Jesus had been at that conference, He would have been worshipping and praising and loving on God His Father, too – dabbing at His blurry eyes and pouring out from His vast wallet and harmonizing better than anyone. But He would have also never missed an opportunity to demonstrate His love while He was there, even to the least of these.