My five-year-old, Matt, worked with a speech therapist on the ch sound, which came out k. The therapist asked him to say chicken. He responded with kitchen. They tried again and again, but it always came out kitchen. Undeterred, she pushed him for one more time to say chicken. Matt sighed and said, “Why don’t we just call it a duck?”
For each of us, God has two purposes. One is for us; the other is through us. One purpose is to us, meant for us. The other is because of us, through us, and meant for beyond us.
The most important moment in my life was when I met Marit; actually, I saw Marit for the first time and my guardian angel told me in an unmistakable voice, “She’s the one.” It was absolutely not me thinking she’s the one because I was thinking at that moment, “Wow, who is that? Wow, is she beautiful and European looking and blonde and sweet-looking and intelligent appearing.” I was thinking these things and the angel was breaking in and telling me she’s the one.
This was the most important moment of my life—almost. Or it was until recently, because I had forgotten another moment, and I had forgotten it because I downplayed it because it didn’t happen to me, not exactly. I did it for three people, but it didn’t happen to me. I didn’t call it the most important even in my life because it wasn’t. It was their most important moment, probably, but not mine. But now I see things differently. I’ll tell you what happened.
When I was in high school, probably seventeen years old, I went to the beach at Lake Michigan one day. It was crowded, so it must have been hot. I was in the water, surrounded by people. I walked farther away from the shore and swam a little bit. I was coming back toward the people and the shore, walking in waist high water when I see two kids, probably six or seven years old I guessed by their size, swimming toward me among the crowd. One was a boy and one was a girl. I guessed they looked like siblings because all I could were their backs. I thought it was a little strange how they were swimming: they both had their heads down and weren’t moving their arms or legs much. They looked like they were floating out, quitely. I thought perhaps they’re holding their breath as a contest.
I watched them go by me and turned to go to shore while nobody else paid them any attention. I turned back toward shore, took a step or two, and
that was when I saw a woman frantically pacing the shore, yelling. I couldn’t hear what she was yelling because she was still too far away and because of the amount of people. I knew instantly (finally) what was going on. I turned back to the two children, lunging through the water, grabbed one in one arm and the other in my other arm, and hauled them up to air and out of the water. They hadn’t taken in water yet, but I remember them grabbing as much air as they could. With both under my arms I carried them to shore and gave them to their mom, who was completely crying and so were the kids by this time.
I remember thinking boy am I glad I was right there and that I had done something pretty good. I don’t remember anything else. I’m sure we all went our separate directions.
I am so glad, more than glad, Marit came into my life—that God gave me her. But the most important moment in my life was when I (probably?) saved three lives. This was the most important moment in my life because it was the most important moment in their lives. Coming to believe this, really feeling this, is extremely difficult. It’s much easier for me to say and view a person who is in my life every day as the most important person in my life, which means meeting her should be the most important moment in my life, especially when your angel gives you the heads up.
When we don’t see the impact of our actions on someone else, we naturally don’t take anything we have done as more important than when we can see the impact on ourselves. Those three people walked out of my life forever. I never found out if the girl became a heart surgeon, or the boy a garbage truck driver who one day made a turn and stopped so quickly he avoided running over a kid crossing the road who since then has grown up to be the person who will some day invent a cure for some forms of breast cancer. Do you see what I’m getting at? Because we don’t see the impact of our actions on another, because we don’t get the continual feedback like we do when it happens to us, we dismiss the importance of what we do for others. We could reach our greatest moment in our lives, and never remember or value it! Because we did it for someone else, and it didn’t happen to us.
But God sees these moments, and the Lord doesn’t dismiss them. When you’re on God’s team, you’re going to do some things that are necessary and helpful but not necessarily to you yourself, or that won’t make you a star but that are crucial for success to God’s will getting done, to good winning out,
even if you never get to see the end product, even if you can’t count the ways in which you made the difference, even if you are the third or fourth person down the line from the big event.
The Lord simply needs us to carry the water sometimes. So, carry water. Do the tasks. See in your work something God can count on and can use to make miracles happen because you were there at the right time doing the right thing.
Let me ask you a question: How good are you at being with someone who has lost a loved one recently? A lot of people have a tough time when they find out the reason the person in front of them is sad is because their mom or dad died, or their sibling, perhaps even their child. The pressure can be intense. What do I say? What don’t I say? I could say one thing and things could go bad and I could make them feel terrible. Or on the other hand maybe I say one right thing and I help them, and I would like to help them.
Do what you would like someone to do for you. And what would that be if someone you love has passed away? You want to talk about that person, how they were amazing, how much they meant, what they were like, etc. It doesn’t take much when you find yourself with someone who is in pain. Ask them about the person they no longer have in their life, and let them talk, and then ask them another question about this special person whose loss is breaking their heart right now. That’s all. Not much but you carried water for the Lord and made a new friend, and, if truth be told, blessed yourself.
I love the scripture that says Jesus went about doing good, Acts 10:38, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” We’re supposed to do good, not for ourselves, but for others.
You know what’s tiring? Going about doing good but only for ourselves. It’s tiring to make it all happen for ourselves. There’s no energy in making sure we’re happy, and we feel happy, and we get the reward, and what’s important ends up with us. It’s tiring to try to funnel the world’s love and energy and resources and purpose and God’s will all down into our one little heart and soul and life. This is why we feel uninspired, tired, not empowered and vibrant. We’re sucking up all the oxygen out of life and keeping it to ourselves. We need to exhale, breath peace on others as the risen Christ breathed on his scared and hiding friends.
Jesus knew this so well that he could create a story that had the power to remain vibrant for two thousand years, forever. It’s so obvious to the listeners what should have happened. Someone has been badly hurt and must be cared for or he may die. Two people have the opportunity to do what they’re obviously going to do. Obviously, their number has been called to be the good guys. God’s will is looking at them. Their destiny is lying on the road. They’re going to make sure this guy survives. They’re going to check him out and get him to safety. Do whatever they can. But they don’t. It’s incredible but they refuse. They walk to the other side of the road and go on their way, never knowing what happened to that man, whether he lived or died.
I guess they must have thought it wasn’t their job, or someone else would do it, and perhaps he deserved it since everyone knows the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was dangerous with criminals. How stupid to walk that alone! You just got to wonder what they were so afraid of, or how they could be so out of practice of doing something for someone else even when it may mean nothing really comes their way from it, certainly not when compared to what the other person is going to get.
But it’s easy to fall into this trap. It’s so tough for us to value doing something that doesn’t lead to us getting something. But we don’t want to be this way. We need to find the value in not being at the center of the world. We need to accept that the Lord’s will doesn’t end with us always or even often in pole position, getting something from someone else’s efforts, reaping what someone else sows.
The Samaritan, the bad guy, knows what to do when the Lord calls. He steps up. He gets his hands dirty. He doesn’t turn away. He’s willing to let someone make a change to his life from what he had planned. He walks instead of rides. He spends some money on someone else. He’s willing to make a promise he didn’t think he would have to make. He makes a detour for destiny.
If you think God’s will aligns comfortably with the exact contours of your present path, you would not be knowing the good Lord’s will. If we believe our destiny lies squarely within the four corners of the life we have manufactured for ourselves and one or two others, then we will remain tired and uninspired as ever. The Lord has the right to call you to a life whose work demands more of you than you are comfortably willing to give and whose benefits will fall to someone other than the one who worked them—
just as the Lord has provided for you, so you should provide for whomever God sees fit.
Hannah had to give up her first born to the work of the Lord when she prayed to have a son. But he ended up anointing David. David had to come to realize he wouldn’t see a temple built but it would fall to his son. Mary had to risk being cast out by her fiancé so that God’s will be done and she gave birth to Christ Jesus. All these incredible people were incredible because they extended God’s will beyond themselves. They didn’t reap but sowed. They didn’t get the reward but gave the effort. They rose to the challenge God set before them.
Find an inspired way to live. Seek a challenge that grows you bigger than you’ve been. Detour your present life to make connections with new people. God gives us opportunity after opportunity to be a neighbor, to care for someone in need, to make a friend of a stranger, to change the world, one person at a time. To do Christ’s ministry, go and do likewise.
Can the church say Amen?