Yesterday I was engaged in a conversation about heroes. When I talk about heroes, besides Jesus, I know that I am talking about flawed people but I have many folks who both teach and exemplify behaviours and attitudes I wish to emulate. Over the years of blogging I have mentioned some of them. This past week I was reminded of one, Sister Christobel. I was visiting her at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre. She was leading a Bible Study for a rowdy group of teens. I found it one of the most exasperating hours of my life. After the kids were escorted back to their units I was about to express my frustration when Christobel interrupted my thoughts. “Did you hear that one guy’s question? He was really seeking. Boy he is coming a long way!” I was flabbergasted. Where all I saw was chaos she had eyes to see God at work! Where I was feeling overwhelmed with anger she was flooded with gratitude as she saw God at work. I felt ashamed of myself. She had recognized the ‘pearl of great price’ when all I saw was a muddy field.
I started to reflect on this souvenir from Christobel this week when I was asked how I deal with all the negativity and gossip which assails our chapel every day. I realized that my lesson learned at the Young Offenders Centre that day was bearing fruit in my life. I am developing an eye for the pearl buried in the field of mud and muck.
A friend abruptly left our Over Comers group the other day. I followed him out and we had a brief conversation about how overwhelmed he was feeling and he had a need to get away. From seemingly nowhere came the words to my lips, as he walked away, “I love you …”. He turned around and said “I know.” A couple of days later he shared how much that meant to him. Today marks his 4th ‘weedless’ day.
A young guy who desperately needs socialization took a risk and asked to meet me for coffee this week. We had a great time and he expressed interest in coming to Up Town Sunday.
A guy most people would be shocked to see in church comes to Up Town regularly. This week he stopped me during our teaching time and asked me a question about last week’s message. He had obviously been deeply thinking about. I wish all of us could follow his example. (Maybe I have a new hero?)
A couple of weeks ago a woman shared at Up Town about how God had saved her from a life of drug and alcohol abuse which was supported by prostitution. She was greeted with hugs and tears and admiration afterward. This week she received an invitation from a vital ministry here in Saint John to talk with young women at risk. She is thrilled.
So you see there are pearls in the muddiest fields if we have eyes to see. I am preaching as much to myself as to any reader because these are discouraging times and I see loads of mud, in fact I feel coated in it, but at the same time God wants to me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude even as He cultivates His pearls. (That sentence is long enough to rival some of St. Paul’s)
Please continue to pray for me and the ministry God has in our inner-city.