Its a common problem for us all. We just get busy in our own worlds. We get distracted by the all too important things that are currently on our plates. For me, its usually ministry itself that I am distracted by. This happened to me just a few days ago.
I had met someone at a local coffee shop for a meeting. It was a fairly important meeting with someone I had just met. As we were talking together about how to be a better minister, a young woman who looked familiar walked by. I was distracted from my conversation while it took me a moment to realize who she was. She passed by again and I put the pieces together. After solving the puzzle I went right back to my important meeting about important business.
The person I saw was a young lady that I know from doing side walk counseling at the local abortion clinic. She is a volunteer for the clinic. Many a morning we have engaged in a conversation about why I was there praying for these young women and why she believed that volunteering to help support the clinic was important. Down there, we have opposite goals. We are adversaries. But on this day, in this coffee shop, we were just two people. One talking about ministry. One going along in her daily life.
Perhaps she recognized me. My mind wondered if she had seen me. Did she wonder how I would respond to her? Would I say hi? Would I ignore her? Pretend I didn’t see her? Or worse, continue our adversarial relationship? Though we are on opposite sides of a very emotional issue, we have had many conversations about abortion, faith and Jesus. She knows where I stand. And I know where she stands. What should I do? What about this man I was meeting with? I can’t just leave our conversation. I mean, “this is my ministry” I thought to myself.
Something compelled to do something. She was standing in line to get her coffee. If there is one thing I know about her is she likes coffee. She always has a cup in her hand when she is at the clinic. As she ordered I wrestled with what to do. Here was an opportunity. The only person this young lady knows is the man who is against her on Friday mornings. Here was my opportunity to show her more of the man that is seemly her enemy. More for the Jesus I proclaimed. To show her the concern that we try to show to the women at the clinic. The compassion of God came over me and I felt compelled to go pay for her coffee. I leapt up to excuse myself from my conversation with my friend. I ran through the crowd of people and forced myself to the register, credit card in hand. Surprised she turned and looked at me. “Hi Claire. Can I buy your coffee?” Unfortunately, I was 30 seconds too late. The barista handed her card back to her. The bill was paid. I missed my chance. She thanked me anyway and went on with her day. That crazy guy at the abortion clinic tried to buy my coffee. But he was too late.
What if I hadn’t hesitated? Was this man I was meeting with, who already knew Christ, more important than an opportunity to show true love and kindness to someone who didn’t? My conversation about ministry ended up getting in the way of real ministry. Its easy to think that ministry happens at church or in a program. But its everywhere. We need to see ourselves as salt and light. We proclaim a God who loves people, yet miss opportunities to demonstrate that love. Don’t miss the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit to do something to show people the love of Christ.
Later that day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that someone had surprised them bought their coffee at Starbucks. She shared how she had teared up with the thought of that persons kindness. My heart sank. I only wish I could have given Claire that same experience. But I was late. I’ll see Claire again, but once again it will be on the grounds of the clinic as an adversary. Who knows, perhaps God will use the gesture anyway. But I have to wonder what could have happened had I not been to busy.