Saturday night we were finishing up an advanced workshop in dream interpretation. At the end of the workshop we pray with each student. It is one of the highlights of the class
We’re located downtown in a section noted for it’s night life. Things don’t get too wild in the Tri-Cities but if you’re looking for night life this is where you would go. We find ourselves nestled between multiple nightclubs, tattoo parlors and sports bars. We have a 100 year old corner storefront with huge inviting windows. Inside looks much more like a coffee house than a church, at least it’s starting to. It’s working for us.
The confluence of our welcoming setting and the downtown Saturday night life brought a man (I’ll call him Rick) through our front doors. I’d met Rick once before and knew that he could be a disturbing presence. Not malevolent but interruptive.
From the far side of the room I watched Rick walk through the doors and engage one of my people in conversation. My very first impression was that he was sent to disrupt the highlight ending of our class. I marched across the room and “stood guard” between Rick and my people, not wanting them to get spiritually slimed by this man.
I stood guard for ten minutes before Rick was handed off to me. Guarded, I patiently listened as Rick shared with me fragments of nine or ten disconnected stories from his past. All the while I’m searching for my opening to lead him graciously out the door.
Slowly the dynamics between us began to change, not from Rick’s perspective but from mine. It was blatantly obvious that Rick lived a confused existence. However, my own confusion was well hidden, not nearly as obvious as Rick’s. Body language was the first clue that the dynamics between us were changing. I had stayed a step back and slightly turned to one side, much like a boxer ready both for offense and defense. Slowly I faced Rick, a much more vulnerable posture and took a step closer. The next clue was the focus of my eyes. My eyes had been darting about, scanning my surroundings for threats and an exit strategy. Now I began to look at Rick, truly look at him, the darkness in his eyes, the deep lines in his face and the wounds in his soul.
When I saw the man and not a problem, my heart was stirred. Warmth began to swell within my chest. Was I feeling love for this man? God’s love? It had to be, it wasn’t in me. Just a moment ago all I felt was annoyed. God loved him and Jesus died for him. I suddenly realized the devil hadn’t sent Rick to disrupt our class, God sent him to change my heart. God loved Rick in all his brokenness and confusion, could I love what God loved?
When did I learn to protect myself (and my people) from the very ones Jesus loved enough to die for?
Oh God set me free to love what you love, set me free to love who you love. Set me free to love without ulterior motive, without agenda, amen.
Copyright 2006, Tom Zawacki
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Saint Paul, Romans 5:8
“Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends”. Jesus Christ, John 15:13
“We love because He first loved us”. Saint John, 1 John 4:19