It’s easy to think the world has never been as dangerously divided as it is now. We can’t agree about how to address wars in the Middle East or how to help refugees fleeing the conflicts. The world’s superpowers seem to be edging ever closer toward the plains of Armageddon.
This morning, I was out jogging when I decided to walk a bit. Just then a trim runner sprinted toward me, glancing at his watch as he passed. “This is embarrassing,” I thought. “What must he think of me?” Five minutes later he passed me going in the other direction. It looked like he was running wind sprints back and forth while I ambled along. I got out of there as fast as I could (which wasn’t very!).
It hurts to be misunderstood, especially when we’re trying our best to love. We might go the extra mile to help, yet our co-worker suspects we have an ulterior motive. We share some hard truth, as kindly as we can, and our friend responds by shutting us out of her life.
My friend was walking through a sculpture park when she saw the sculptor Rodin’s statue of Eve, which captures the moment Eve understood what she had done against God. My friend wept at Eve’s desperate, twisting figure, shattered by shame and fear, hanging her head and raising her hand in an attempt to block Him from smiting her.
In 1983, a sixty-one-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up for a grueling, weeklong ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne—in overalls and work boots. He shuffled off the starting line as the much younger and athletic runners sprinted ahead. Soon he was miles behind. Spectators feared for his health. But that night, as the other runners slept, Cliff took a quick nap and kept going. Five days and five nights later he came in first—ten hours ahead of his closest competitor!
A woman named Wednesday was out walking when she saw a well-dressed woman coming toward her. The woman drifted in her path, pushing Wednesday to the edge of the sidewalk. As she brushed by, Wednesday noticed she was carrying a $60,000 Birkin handbag. She realized if she was going to be accepted in New York’s prestigious Upper East Side, she would have to get one.
Susan had suffered one disappointment after another, and she was feeling disillusioned with God. She asked me and another friend to pray with her, and we gladly did. I’ll never forget my friend’s prayer, “Lord, let Susan know You love her—that You see her.” The next day Susan thanked us for our prayers. She said she’d been feeling invisible, and our prayers helped her to feel visible again. She knew afresh that God saw her.
Our world grants increasing access to those who can afford the price of admission. If you want to hear your favorite band in concert, you can buy a ticket. Spend more money and you can buy a backstage pass and take a selfie with the band during the “meet and greet.” Pay a lot more and they may be willing to sing at your wedding or birthday party.
Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.
A family headed for missionary training was killed by a truck driver, just months before they were set to leave for Japan. The father had explained their mission in his blog: “The Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth . . . The church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers.” This family answered God’s call but died on their way.
A Chinese translator told a visiting theologian that her Buddhist parents admired the teachings of Jesus, but they were offended by the idea that someone had to believe in Him to be saved. They worried that their Christian daughter now believed her ancestors were in hell. The translator said, “Revering my ancestors means much to me, and I want to assure my parents that I do not want to dishonor my family heritage. So please tell me what I, as a Christian, can say to my parents about this.”
Sarah sometimes wonders if she only believes in Jesus because she’s surrounded by family and friends who also do. She asked, “Am I a Christian because it’s true or because I live in a Christian bubble?”
Jasper Fu drives two hours a day for Uber, an app-based taxi service. He doesn’t do it for the money, since he already has a fulltime job. He says he does it because it’s a good way to “talk to people.” Chinese culture encourages quiet restraint, so it can seem inappropriate to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. It’s different when you’re picking them up in your car. Jasper says, “Under no other circumstance can I find a stranger to talk with me for like 10 to 20 minutes.”
The movie Amadeus depicts Antonio Salieri as a composer who couldn’t enjoy his gift because he happened to live at the same time as the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri worked diligently to create a decent musical work, only to watch the impish Mozart sit down at the piano and play soaring music, seemingly off the top of his head. Salieri begged God for Mozart’s gift, but he believed that God gave him just enough talent to recognize the many ways he didn’t measure up.
The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.