Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Face to Face With the Enemy
We left and jumped up on I-10 and personally I could feel the stress fall away. While I practice placing my faith in what happens in my life and my church in the hands of God, all of you in ministry know that it's really really hard to not be thinking about "church". But it was working, and I turned my focus on making sure Bunny had the best vacation ever. Friends, the wives of the pastors in your churches carry a heavy load without much notice. They need a break. And with this being the first Mother's Day since Bunny's Mom passed away I was determined that she would enjoy herself and remember the time in NOLA forever.
Both of those goals were met.
If you ask Bunny, I think she'll tell you it was the best vacation we've ever had together. And I know she'll tell you that she will never forget it. Up to a point, that will be because she really enjoyed herself. She took each day as it came, and was able to live in the moments as they came - no outside pressure and no worries. She saw art in bunches, we visited churches, a synagogue, and cemeteries. We ate food we normally wouldn't and slept more than we ever would. She had a blast and I did too - in part just watching her.
New Orleans isn't exactly my kind of place. It's a little rough around the edges. It's pretty raw when it comes to selling sex and the party lifestyle. And it has plenty of people that either caused me to check my options in case we were about to get mugged, others that looked to be in altered states, a few that were dressed freakily - even painted, and some that were just wanting a buck or two. They all seemed to be part of the "scene." At no point did I see them in any other way.
Just like my toothbrush and toothpaste, I left my compassion and my caring heart at home. The first we solved at Walgreens. The second I never really did while I was on the streets of New Orleans. When I was with "safe" or "church" people, I connected. On the streets and in the square, I did everything but.
In the cartoon above, Pogo has just realized that instead of being part of the solution, he is part of the problem. I didn't realize that until my wife's heart was broken over our utter lack of Christlike love for this young man once we returned and she realized we never asked his name.
For me, he hit several of the categories of people in NOLA I listed above. He was part of the scenery - musicians are all over the French Quarter, usually wanting money. He looked strung out to me,which is why I was trying before this picture was taken to get Bunny on down the street. But he was singing a song and she caught his eye, and he wound up catching us as I tried to move along. Bunny had me take her picture with him, and I'll let her tell the story that leads up to that. Let's just say I had an opening you could have driven a truck through, but my head and heart weren't screwed on straight.
We walked away and neither of us knew his name, or whether he had eaten, had a place to stay, or knew that God loved him. I'm a pastor. I left the business world because of a direct call from God to love His people and to spread the good news of Jesus. I've been at this for many years and talked to lots of people about Jesus. But this young man, who could have been one of our sons, I never even prayed for. The opportunity I had to show the love of God to Him as a believer, as a pastor - came and left.
Father, forgive me. Lord Jesus, give me what I lack of you that I might never ever leave my compassion and love for my neighbor behind no matter where I go. And please let someone else find this young man and remind him that Jesus cares.
Even if a pastor when on vacation didn't.