Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Be Like Bernie

I wanted to share a story with you all about my friend Bernie. I had a conversation with him recently about his encounter with a woman and her daughter in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in our city. Not your typical stage for Jesus to show us a glimpse of his kingdom.

Bernie was driving home from work when he went through the intersection of Oakland Dr and Milham Rd here in Portage. Because Bernie drives this same route every single day of his life, he is very familiar with this intersection. And he also knows how busy this intersection can be during rush hour, which is typically the time he is coming home from work. On this day, Bernie was stopped at the stoplight and noticed a woman pushing her car through the intersection. The reason he noticed was that a few cars honked at her because she was not able to get the vehicle through the intersection before the light went red. While watching her labor to get out of everyone's way, Bernie also noticed two younger gentlemen were jogging together along the sidewalk on the same side of the road as the woman. The two men didn't flinch as they ran right past this her and her daughter.

Now you have to understand that Bernie is just like the rest of us. He struggles with responding in situations like this, often convincing himself that his involvement wouldn't really help, or that there were other places that he had to be and he couldn't be late. We all do that. And so the light turned green and Bernie continued to follow the car in front of him. However, something in him made him stop and turn around. Bernie helped the woman push the vehicle to the nearest parking lot a few hundred feet down the road. When they stopped he began speaking with her and found out that she had just lost her job and her car had run out of gas. She was very emotional and began to cry and said that her phone had just been shut off as well. Bernie told her that he had a few gallons of gas at his home which was less than a mile away and offered to bring it back to help her get to a gas station. The woman was so thankful for him doing this. Then, when Bernie returned, he asked her if he could have the pleasure of filling up her tank for her! She was beside herself at his offer and took him up on it.

Now, this isn't life-changing stuff. It was just a few minutes of manual labor and $30 in gas. Not a huge deal; unless you are that woman. For her, it meant the world and gave a glimpse of hope in a real difficult time. To that woman, Bernie was a life-saver.

What if we all lived that way? What if we all were willing to respond to someone in need with the same active, intentional love that Bernie showed here? He never asked her why she had lost her job; she could have been a bad employee. He never asked why she hadn't saved enough money for times like this; she may have blown the money she had on useless things. He didn't worry that his money was going to be wasted, and he didn't look to evaluate how worthy she was to recieve his assistance. Instead, he responded to a need with no strings attached to his love. I think that this is what heaven will be like.

I just finished a conversation this morning with my friend Mike. Among many topics we discussed was the dynamic that Jesus alluded to with regards to his providing for our needs. It seems that the life he wants for us is one where we focus our efforts, time and assets 100% in the direction of others. Then, he promises, that he will meet our every need on the back end. Most times that provision comes through another of his followers that is looking out for others 100% and we just happen to be the recipient of that focus. That kind of life system leaves no room for pride or need for accomplishment, and I think that is why we resist it. I really can't find any place where Jesus says to 'balance' providing for ourselves and family, and also seeking that others are provided for. Its actually a complete lack of balance in favor of endless sacrifice. I give all to you, and trust that God will replenish what I have given. I think of the 12, and Jesus' specific instructions to take nothing with them as they went out. He instructed them to go out and love all with EVERYTHING they had, and to trust that they would never starve or be left naked without cover. And it was through this dynamic that the greatest revolution in the history of time began. How does this play itself out in this time and space? It probably looks like Bernie pushing a car down Milham Rd, dumping two gallons of gas into a tank that isn't his, and then filling it the rest of the way.

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