I had just come from almost two hours of Spirit-blessed prayer with two other women with whom I gather weekly. God had quite evidently met with us as we prayed for the world, our city, our church. It was hard to move on to the mundane activities of grocery shopping and other chores that lay ahead, but I soon found myself purposefully walking out the church door, across the street to the parking garage. This ‘Christian soldier’ was on her way to meet the day.
Just before entering the garage entrance, out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman walking toward me on the sidewalk. It took no more than a glance to recognize her as one of our city’s homeless citizens, more than likely heading to the social agency on the nearby corner where she could ask for food, clothing, work or another one of life’s needs.
And this ‘Christian soldier’s’ first holy, Christ-like, missional thought? “I hope she doesn’t stop and ask me for anything. I need to be on my way.”
She didn’t stop. She didn’t speak. She didn’t even hesitate. (Sobering thought: maybe she didn’t want to talk to me either??) But God stopped me in my proverbial tracks. All my praying had neglected to move from mouth to heart to life. I recall being critical of a man who, in every prayer before all hearty meals, said, “Thank you for this good food and bless those who are hungry.” Because I knew of his disdain for those without the “wherewithal” to provide for themselves, those without a work ethic to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” I concluded that his prayer never reached his heart. Or his wallet. But, at least in this instance, I was no different.
Do I feel like God is shaking his finger at me in anger and condemnation? No, not in the least. In fact, I can picture God gently smiling and saying something like, “Just a reminder, Marilyn. I love you and I equally love the least of these. It’s time to line up with my priorities.”
Incidentally, when I tried to find a picture to illustrate this Monday’s moments—something about “Christian soldiers”—I found only guns and tanks and blood and swords and Middle Ages’ Crusaders. Until I found the one you see above. His weapon, supplied by the military and necessary in battle, is momentarily unused. He is using a different weapon, one more akin to Jesus’ gear: generosity, vulnerability, kindness. A weapon I’ve now been admonished to use more often.
*A hymn written in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould for children as they marched from one Yorkshire village to another during the season of Pentecost.