Sometimes things are not as they appear.
She dressed in rags, drove a battered automobile and begged for cigarettes. Neighbors often saw her rummaging through trash cans. Police found out where all that trash was going after questioning her at the garbage bin behind a shopping center. They took her to her cheap apartment, where they found all manner of junk—on furniture, in the sink, stove, refrigerator, bathtub, cabinets.
As they made their way through paths carved through the piles of trash, police made their most surprising discovery: stock certificates from Mobil Oil, U.S. Steel, Squibb and Uniroyal, titles for oil fields in Kansas and passbooks for eight very large bank accounts. It turned out that she had over $1 million to her name. Her name was Kathleen Colley. Her not-so-nosy neighbors “knew” her as “Garbage Mary.”
Under the surface of lives around us there is brokenness. It might not be as unusual as Kathleen Colley’s, but it is there. As followers of Jesus we have opportunities to offer healing to others. By being attentive and prepared, we can take advantage of opportunities to show them reason for hope.
This need was brought closer to me recently. A few months ago, a friend told me about a co-worker who had taken his own life not long before. A few weeks ago, news came about a young man in a community group in which one of our children is a member. That boy also took his own life.
Our awareness of these tragedies reminds us that we might be in regular contact with others who are on their way to losing hope. Being prepared to help them requires us to learn to see and know Jesus as the treasure of our lives. We know Him this way when we read Scripture well, and then begin to experience life with Him as He intended. We must listen carefully to Jesus and learn to talk to Him during each day about what we are hearing Him say in His Word. This is the way to know how He discerned the heart needs of others, and how He acted to meet their needs.
Ask the Holy Spirit to change the way we see others. He will show us how to value others for who they are. Occasionally I walk up and down one of the streets in my neighborhood and pray for the people living in each house, whether I know them or not. Sometimes, if I know the people inside, I linger briefly and pray more specifically.
Another idea is to make a list of the three people at work with whom you have the most contact, then pray for each of them during a work break. Your interactions with those workers might begin to take on new significance. You might begin to notice things that you missed before. One recent morning someone gave me the usual, “how-are-you-doing” greeting. I replied, “Blessed as usual; how are you?” She said, “Not as blessed as you are.” I might have overlooked her comment except that I knew that she had just gone through her second divorce. That comment alerted me to be sensitive to the lingering pain and how I might minister to her.
Show Him to them
Our greatest opportunity is to show Jesus’ treasure value to others. That does not require us to make Him look good. He already does. It means that we should get out of the way and make Him prominent by our actions.
A recent incident illustrates how that can happen. A few months ago my co-workers were engaging in one of the most beloved workplace pastimes: complaining about wages. Later I confided to one of them that I needed a raise too. But I was going to ask Jesus for a raise, and offered to ask Jesus for him too. The offer was difficult, because that co-worker has a lot of brokenness, and has repeatedly despised the goodness of God. Also, we had recently been told by a higher level manager that raises would not be happening. But in less than a week, my co-worker and I were among the few in our company to receive raises. When we did, I took the opportunity to remind him that Jesus had just showed Himself as his treasure!
I invite readers to share your experiences and ideas.