Overheard # 6 - I call this one, "It's not funny anymore."
A mom at lunch with her two boys on Mother's Day. One son was a teenager, the other was probably in middle school, both boys were very, very well dressed, branded from head to toe, noticeably wealthy.
The mom said to the boys, "You need to eat something before you go back to your dad. What do you want? Chicken? A burger?"
The kids mumbled something and continued staring at their smart phones, neither one of them interested in spending time with their mom.
More conversation from the mom that I couldn't make out until I heard her ask in an upbeat, but noticeably strained voice, "So, what are your cell phone numbers?!"
That's when my heart sank. I knew right away I'd write about this on my blog, but I also knew it wasn't funny anymore. I can't communicate the pain in this poor woman's voice. It told me in an instant that she was desperate for her children, for the relationship she wanted to have with them, for the time they had left together before she had to take them back to their father.
My friend and I were talking on the phone and she repeated something to me that she'd heard a pastor say. This is not verbatim, in fact, it might not resemble anything like what the pastor said originally or even what my friend quoted to me (since it's been mulling around in my head for weeks), but this is what I took away from our conversation.
God doesn't let us (followers of Christ) know something about people (who might not follow Christ) so that we can pass judgment on them. Rather, we are given the ability to tell about them so that we will be able to discern what kind of grace they need from God. And, in turn, we should use what we know about them to pray for them or, if given the opportunity, to minister to them in Christ's name.
And, since that conversation with my friend, every time I've overheard some bit of nonsense, I've been unable to scoff at the people involved. On the contrary, I've sensed the Holy Spirit gently reminding me, "You know that's foolishness because God has given you His wisdom." I'm also reminded that not everyone has the wisdom of God or the power He imparts. I am grateful for the fact that I "know better." And, thanks to God's Spirit at work within me, I also have the ability to "do better."
"...The righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit... You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." Romans 8
What I noticed about this woman was that she had no way of obtaining that which mattered to her the most. I was struck by this because this is not how I live as a believer in Christ. If I am desperate for something, I don't ever have to strive for it. I have an ally in God and He has all the resources and power I ever need at His disposal. Not that I tell Him what to do, quite the contrary. But, if I ever want something, I usually get it, because the only reason I want it in the first place is because He, very likely, put the desire for it there to begin with. So, naturally, when I seek Him for what I want, there's no question that I will get it.
"Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him... This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." 1 John
This lady reminded me of that. I'd forgotten that there are people who live without God's Spirit. He has no place in their reality. They live without His help in the every day things or perhaps and even more importantly, without his help in the not-so-everyday things that really can make or break lives, like being a good parent to your children. This mom wanted to be, no question about it. But, by the tone of her voice, I could tell she was just doing the best she could in her own strength, grasping in the dark for what she wanted and lucky if she took hold of anything that even remotely resembled what she was after.
But, the glory of the matter is that it doesn't have to be this way for her or for anyone. The truth is that God loves us all. He wants to rescue our lives and intervene on our behalf. Contrary to what many people believe about Him, God isn't standing nearby with his giant arms crossed, waiting for us to be vulnerable and admit our fault, just so He can smugly say, "I told you so." and then do nothing. We have to admit our fault when we come to God, but God doesn't proceed to smear our faces in our mistakes. He is eager to help us because He loves us. In fact, He is love. Everything else we call "love" is just a cheap substitute for who He is, who He could be in our lives, if we would only let Him. We need only turn our hearts toward Him, which can be painful and humiliating because we will have to be honest and deal with our junk, but that's when He can really begin changing our lives.
"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103
And, that's my prayer for this woman, that she will turn her heart towards God, if she hasn't already, and that He will begin giving her the power she needs to do all the good things she can't do without His help, to be a better mother and have the ability to reach her children's hearts.