The Lord called me from my warm and cozy bed to see the dawn. I must admit that I really wanted to sleep, but I could feel the pull of the Almighty saying, “I want to show you something.” I stood by my 3rd floor motel window and saw nothing but the city streetlights in the darkness. Then, all of a sudden, there was a tiny glow that grew bigger and bigger until I stood in awe once again of “the dawn’s early light.” I thought to myself, “Why don’t I get up for this at home?” In this same motel for years I have watched the sunrise and the sunset, and although it is not as unobstructed as I would like, it had in the past caused me to promise myself that I would at least check out sundowns at home. But I must admit that I only did it a couple of times, which were wonderful, but it never became a priority. Why? The word inconvenient came to mind. The sun gets up before I do, and the sun lowers in the sky when I am busy with other things. It happens when I am not noticing and then it is too late to catch.
Interestingly enough in this time period I had been pondering the time that Jesus called his disciples. Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee and saw Andrew and Peter casting their nets and he said “Come, follow me….and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) It says, “at once they left their nets and followed him.” (v. 20) Notice the at once. They were busy. They were working. Yet at Jesus’ call they dropped what they were doing and followed Him. (In the early morning hours I must admit there was a little arguing going on in my bed.) In the next verse Jesus calls Peter and John who were helping their father mending their nets, but that doesn’t stop them from immediately following Him. They didn’t worry about what their dad might say.
I see this calling play out time and time again. Jesus calls and some follow and some do not. There is the story of Levi (Matthew) who is a sinful tax collector who Jesus calls, He follows and even invites his friends and fellow “sinners” to meet Jesus at his house for dinner. He gets up immediately also. (Matt. 9:9-10 ESV) Then later there is the story of the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus but couldn’t take the complete step of letting go of his riches. (Matt. 19:16-22) That would be too inconvenient.
In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus tells a parable about a great banquet. Many were invited and were excited to go but, by the time the servants told the invited guests that the banquet was ready, many had excuses as to why they couldn’t attend. One had bought a field and needed to go see it, another had bought some new oxen and had to try them out, another had just got married so couldn’t leave his bride. Basically they were saying that the banquet was planned for an inconvenient time. Maybe later. God’s call can be inconvenient but are we ready to lay down whatever is urgently tugging on us to obey the call of the Almighty? Or is it too inconvenient?
Luke 9:57-62 tells the real life story of those who said to Jesus “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus reminded them that he had no home. Others who wanted to follow him asked for him to wait until their responsibility to their father was over and he was dead. Another wanted to say goodbye to his family first. Jesus replied in a way that made it clear if He calls, this is the time to answer, it might not come again.
As I thought about this even more I realized that Jesus, who willingly lived the life of a human with all of it’s inconveniences, also had to deal with this problem. A lot of the calls on His life were inconvenient also. Remember the story of the disciples waving the children away from bothering Jesus? (Matt. 19:13-15) He had been teaching on marriage and divorce, and the parents started bringing their children for Him to touch them and pray for them. To the disciples the timing may have been off, but to Jesus this was not an inconvenience, it was another teachable moment.
Then there is the story of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue who pled with Jesus to come and heal his 12-year-old daughter who was dying. (Luke 8:40-56) Jesus agreed to go but on his way a woman with a 12 year issue of blood (interesting note: 12 years for both…all that little girl’s life this woman had suffered humiliation and the inability to attend the very synagogue the ruler ruled). Well, anyway Jesus stops! That was pretty inconvenient for Jairus and possibly life threatening to his daughter! But Jesus stops. It is not convenient for Him either. He was going to do something different but somehow He must have felt the call of His Father to attend to this woman first…to extend mercy and grace, to even show her respect and loving kindness. This woman will never forget the attention Jesus paid to her that day. On the other hand, this inconvenience for a “ruler,” a leader, a person of authority…well, you can imagine his desire to tap his foot, and his thoughts about this non-important person causing him this inconvenience, which I am sure was further exasperated when he got home and found that his beloved daughter had died. Jesus just took it all in stride and took each of the Father’s calls in turn. He reached down and took the child by the hand and told her to get up, which of course, she did.
As I contemplated all of the passages, I realized how much of my life submitting to following Jesus was wrapped in small and large inconveniences. Some of them hadn’t bothered me and I was glad to do them but some were asking things of me I found disrupted my well planned out day. But what was more disconcerting was the thought that maybe I hadn’t been as available to the Lord as I thought I had. I realized that there were whole days when I may not have been noticing where Jesus was pointing. I have a very bad habit of “minding my own business,” but the Lord began to show me in recent vacation days that there was a lot more going on around me than I realized and the Lord was calling me to be more plugged into my surroundings. When I am home I run from one thing to another. On vacation a slower pace lets me see more of the stories of those people around me and how, if I was more aware of what was going on, I could be more plugged in to what the Lord was calling me to do. I’d like to give you of an example of this that I saw the other day that really touched me.
I was sitting in the car after an especially trying time with the eye doctor. My eyes were trying to adjust to the drops that were making it hard to see in the bright sunshine. Alan pulled into a gas station where under the overhang I was comfortable under its shadow. Alan went in and waited in line to pay for gas and then put gas into the car. It must have been one of those busy days as we were there longer than usual. I was sitting and watching the older woman in the next stall putting a green hose into her car’s gas tank, then holding her hand funny, looking around for what I figured was a towel to wipe her hand. She stood there awhile. I didn’t move. Finally she climbed on the island and went around the gas pump, still holding her hand out, grabbed her cane and walked toward the store. An older man and what looked like his grandson came out and met her and after a few words they came to the car. I figured she had tried to pump the gas while her husband and grandson had paid. I watched as the man came, took out the green hose, put that back, then put in the black hose. Oh, I thought, she must have put in the diesel hose by mistake. He then went to what I then realized was the place the paper towels were, wet one and went over to the woman, took her hand and gently wiped it. He then went back and got a dry towel and gave it to her. He then checked the gas pump. I thought he was such a wonderful husband to treat her with so much respect and care. But then he and his grandson said goodbye and walked away, got into their car and left! The woman finished putting the gas line back and closing her gas tank door. Slowly she walked to her car and got in and drove away. I sat there feeling that I was in the presence of God. I was so touched I wanted to take my shoes off. I had seen what it must have looked like when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. I saw a man freely, gently, humbly, reach out and touch the life of a woman he did not know with the love of Jesus.
This story is true and it touched me in a deep way. God had a divine encounter for any who would hear His call. I watched the lady wondering what was wrong with her, yet this man answered the call and did what he could. It wasn’t so much for me that this was an inconvenience, it was that I was so self-absorbed that I missed the cues. I could have helped her if I had noticed, if I had been aware, if I heard the call. It made me wonder how much of my life is hustle, bustle, me-centered, and how much of it is willing to hear the call of Jesus? She might not have been the one God was calling me to help. It might have been an opportunity to see a divine encounter that taught me a lesson, but will I be ready to be available no matter how inconvenient it might be the next time? I hope so. My heart is there but sometimes my actions don’t live up to my desires.
In church this week I heard a new worship song, new for me at least. It stopped me in my tracks. I think some months ago I wrote about an old song called “I Surrender All” and laughed when I realized I should be singing “I surrender some,” which was more true than funny. The song I heard was a Chris Tomlin song called Lay Me Down, which talks of sacrifice which reminded me of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. But the words that kept running over and over again in my mind were:
“It will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way.”
My heart wants to sing it truthfully, but my mind and body aren’t always where they should be in submission to my Savior. Forgive me Lord for finding there are times when it is inconvenient to follow You, and the times when I am so wrapped up in “me, myself, and I,” to find it a joy to say, “Your will, Your way.”
Charlene N. Woodlee
The Lyrics to:
Lay Me Down by Chris Tomlin
With this heart open wide
From the depths from the heights
I will bring a sacrifice
With these hands lifted high
Hear my song hear my cry
I will bring a sacrifice
I will bring a sacrifice
I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh, hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down
Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine, shine, shine
Take this life and let it shine
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will your way