I’m walking to church one evening a few weeks ago and I’m in the zone: earphones in; Arcade Fire on loud; wrapped up warm; eyes glued to the icy ground so I don’t fall over (again!)
All told, I’m fairly content- everything is in order and I’m even running on time.
So you can imagine the slight irritation I feel when I hear someone shouting at me.
“Oi, mate…mate, oi, hold up”
That’s right, someone I don’t even know is crossing the road and about to talk to me! Reluctantly I pull out my earphones, wondering what’s occurring and a sense of panic starts to rise.
Listen, I’ll be honest, looking at him I make a few snap judgements; they all suggest I should get myself out of here ASAP.
For a start he’s wearing a t-shirt in arctic mid-January conditions (weird). Then there’s the tattoos on his arms and the beer can he has gripped in one hand. All told, he’s a scary looking dude. It doesn’t help that he just ran across the road JUST in order to reach me.
I have no idea what’s going on but it’s safe to say my fight or flight instincts are beginning to kick in.
“Hiya mate can I borrow your phone?”
“My phone’s flat, can I use yours to make a call?”
Immediately my mind jumps to the worst possible scenario- he’s after my phone. If I hand it to him he’s gonna make a run for it, clearly. And I need my phone – I rely on it for a whole bunch of different things from contacting friends to first class time-wasting. If he pegs it then I have a real problem.
Begrudgingly I pull my phone out of my pocket. The scary-looking-must-be-freezing-cold dude obviously realises I’m struggling a bit on the trust front, so he gives me his own phone to hold whilst he makes the call.
“Don’t worry mate, I honestly don’t mean any trouble.”
He makes the phone call to his friend and I’m on edge the whole time. In my head I’m calculating whether to go for a Jackie Chan-style high kick or a plain and simple rugby tackle if he tries to get away.
“Yeah, this very kind bloke has just lent me his phone.”
He finishes the call and we swap our phones back. A huge wave of relief washes over me. He wasn’t trying to steal anything after all. He just needed to contact someone.
“Thank you so much mate, you’re a life-saver!”
And that’s it.
I watch him walk off across the icy pavement and suddenly I feel pretty stupid. This guy had been honest, grateful and in need.
Although I may have answered that need by lending him my phone, I’d been super-suspicious and unfriendly the whole time. I’d allowed my snap judgements, pre-prejudices and love of materials to get in the way of loving another human being
Then, as I stand there in the cold, I remember a prayer that I’d been praying all week-
‘God all that I have is yours. Please let me be willing to give my possessions up to you, however you want to use them.’
Perhaps I should have seen this coming then.
I had asked God to make me more generous in how I use my possessions and here He’d presented me with a perfect opportunity. In my comfortable world a simple act of letting a stranger borrow a phone seemed like the biggest sacrifice possible.
It’s not like God even asked me to give it up permanently- I was only separated with it for about 30 seconds! I’m learning a lot from it.
I’m not saying that every passerby who asks for help is completely trustworthy; there are people out there who would’ve taken the opportunity to steal my phone. But I’m learning that everything I own is a blessing from God: my time, money, possessions; my talents – you name it, all His.
Then, how God chooses to use these is up to Him rather than me.
The early church set a great example of giving everything up for God- in Acts 4:32-34 it says:
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had… And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them.”
It’s not by chance that we’re in such a privileged position of luxury when compared to the vast majority of people on the planet. We’re blessed in order that we might be a blessing to others around us; that we would make it our priority to further Jesus’ kingdom by answering the needs of the people we meet.
In part, justice starts when we live generously and give all that we’ve got back to God and allow it to be used in any way He wants it to be.
Today let’s remember that all we have belongs to God and find freedom in giving with a spirit of generosity that comes through Jesus.
Soul61 intern for Soul Action