November 9, 2008
Sunday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #62: The Battle with Selfishness
Greetings! God is good! He is faithful to give me opportunities to make Him known, to defend my faith, and to minister to others. Well, God doesn’t just give me opportunities; He shoves me into them. This is not because God cannot seem to work subtly, nor is it because of a resistance on my part to heed gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, I do hear when God points someone out for me to talk to; I notice when He clues me in to someone’s need. And, typically, I’m obedient to speak a word of encouragement to the man or faithful to speak to him about God’s love for him. I said typically—which does not mean that I am apostate, rebellious, or belligerent; it’s just that sometimes I don’t quite feel like stopping what I’m doing to be interrupted intentionally with ministry. Oh, puh-lease! Don’t you dare look at me like that! You’ve gone this route before, right?
Remember when I was witnessing on a bus in Moscow, Russia, through an interpreter? I stopped, looked at my interpreter, and challenged her with: “Hey! You know Christ! And you speak these people’s language! You should tell them about Christ!” Well, you remember how convicting those words immediately became, as God Himself seemed to speak directly to my heart with: “Back in America, they speak English—you’re familiar with that language, right?” Ouch.
Unfortunately, the cares of this life soon crowded out my zeal for witnessing. Sure, I led the occasional soul to Christ, but I lost the vision of every person being my mission field: every client, every associate, every employer, every employee.
Now, it’s become fresh again—the realization that I’m on a mission field, with lost people everywhere. So, why the hesitancy to witness or reach out? Well, strange as it may seem, I’m busy. Yep. You read that correctly.
I know; I know. My life looks like the classic bum’s life: no job, no responsibilities, fed and housed by the state. However, I still write approximately 10 letters per week, I’ve got a few Christian books I’m reading at the moment, I keep physically fit, I practice music a few days a week, and I have a full plate of college courses, with more than 30 pages of writing assignments the first month.
I’ve just been named Assistant Choir Director/Worship Leader, which requires additional time of preparation and practice through each week. I have an aggressive schedule that I’m barely keeping up with. And you know what? I’ve found that when I have “Dayroom” for two hours, I’d rather just take a shower and head back into my cell to work on projects that need to be checked off of my daily, weekly, or monthly lists than to hunt some lonely, sad, upset, or hopeless guy to minister Christ to.
See, spending an hour speaking hope into a man’s life wasn’t on my list of priorities, nor did I budget time for that man. Any “extra” time—well, I could use that time to read that Christian newspaper someone loaned me or wash my laundry. It’s just too easy to find validity in the excuse of not having the time to minister.
There you go again! I caught you tossing the “15 years” bit at me in your head! Okay, so you’re right. I have a ton of time, relatively speaking. But I just don’t have the drive to interrupt my day with someone’s life. Straight-up selfishness, right? Sad, if I let myself think about it.
I walked to my dental appointment this week (high gas prices … ), and I intentionally did not bring along something to read during the inevitable one-hour-plus wait time. I actually planned to talk to someone! I opted to minister! Sure enough, I had an opportunity to talk to a couple of guys at length. But my heart sank as I looked out the medical facility window to see “Gator,” the guy I’d prayed for and talked to before—but not yet followed up with—standing in line to get his meds. I felt bad for not making more of an effort to talk to him instead of heading home early from Dayroom each day. I asked God to give me another chance with him.
The next day, Joe, a Christian guy serving 48–Life for multiple homicides, asked me if I remembered “Gator”—the guy who almost died. “Of course!” I said.
“Well, he was standing in back of me in line to get his meds yesterday, and God prompted me to share Christ with him, so I did. Cool, huh?”
How awesome to realize how BIG God is—He uses all of us—and how personal God is—He cares for each one of us!! Now, I pray I’ll be faithful to speak when He asks me to. After all, I already speak their language—ya feel me, Homie?