Do you ever wonder why God put a certain person in your path? I’ve pondered this question a lot throughout my life. I can look back over my life and see how God brought a new person into my life at just the time when I needed a friend and then that person faded out of my life just as quietly as he or she had entered my life.
Back in junior high, all of the cliques were feuding, and I seemed to end up on the outside. By myself. Alone.
Then, the Sunday before the first day of 7th grade, a new person my age showed up in my Sunday school class. This may sound like a normal occurrence. But, I’m from a small town, and new people were few and far between. This person offered me friendship, taught me how to make friendship bracelets and how to play Nintendo, and helped me make other friends. A few years later, this friend moved away. And we lost touch.
About ten years later, I had another person end up on my same path. I had been through some rough times emotionally. So, I assumed that God must have put this new person in my life to be my soulmate. After all, this person shared many of my same interests. But several years later, I was able to look back and see that person’s role was simply to teach me to trust again, which was no small task but seemed less significant considering the role that I had assumed that person was playing.
And then there are the people that I come across each day that have needs that pull on my heartstrings but I’m not sure what role I’m supposed to play. For instance, there is a man who lives outside my work building. He sits or stands beside a trash bin for most of the day. He has had the same set of clothes on for several years now and wears a winter jacket and long pants year-round. He never begs or even speaks to others, though sometimes he does appear to be talking to himself.
Having read Same Kind of Different As Me, an amazing book about the role a homeless man played and continues to play in the life of an international art dealer, I can’t walk by this homeless man without acknowledging his presence, if not with words, at least with a glance and a facial expression of some sort. I usually pray for God to provide for this man’s needs and help him find a real place to live and gainful employment. Yet, I struggle with whether I should be doing more.
I often wonder when I pray that prayer, “Lord, is it your desire to provide for this man‘s needs by having me bring him food? Should I offer him reading material to help pass the day? What’s my role? Just to listen? To pray? How do I show this man Your love without putting myself in danger?”
I don’t want my actions to be stifled by fear, but that last question is a nagging one. It reminds me of the line from The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe in which the children ask whether Aslyn is safe, and the reply goes something like, “Of course He’s not safe, but He’s good.”
“Lord, I know that You are good. I want to love others well. If that means praying for a person, please bring that person to mind often. If that means providing food, help me to be obedient rather than fearful. If that means extending a listening ear to someone, help me not to be so selfish with my time. Show me how to be salt and light to those You put in my path.”