So...that still small voice wouldn't hush this week because I must confess that in the busy-ness of life, putting out fires in the office, and just day to day church stuff, I had let my morning devotionals go.
This morning I decided that I needed to spend some time, alone, in the quiet before folks start coming in, reading and writing. I pulled my Life Journal off the shelf and looked up the readings for today. They were Jeremiah 50 & 51, and 3 John.
Jeremiah was just being Jeremiah. He's not the most optimistic of the prophets, and today was more "'I'm going to wipe you out,' sayeth the Lord." 3 John, though, well that was different.
John is writing to Gaius. Which Gaius, we don't know, but evidently he was a leader in one of the churches. 3 John 1:5 says this: "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you."
That was a 2X4 to the face this morning. Here's why...
For the last two weeks, the messages I've brought to the folks who are Grace Church have been about how we are all misfits in one way or another and that we are called to welcome any who have been made to feel like misfits. This coming Sunday, the message is about...wait for it..."Strangers like me." Here's why that's big...this series was planned out almost six months ago, and today I read John commending Gaius for the way he has been treating the "brothers" even though they are strangers.
Here's why that's like a 2X4 to the face. I blew it this week.
I had the opportunity to do that...and I blew it.
See, as a pastor, my phone gets blown up all day long. Sometimes folks just have a question...sometimes they just need to talk. Sometimes folks need some advice...sometimes they need something else. Sometimes it's folks I know...sometimes it's not. I really don't mind. When it's someone I know, I have to confess that I'm a little more willing to help, because I get calls all of the time from folks just looking for a handout from the church and have never darkened the door...not once. This week has been more of the latter.
I even made the comment to one of my leadership team members; "If I knew him it would be a different story, but I've never met him before." I could blame it on stress, because it was a stressful week. I could say I was just tired. I could say it was because I didn't get my workout in that morning. Or...I could just admit that because I didn't know him, I automatically assumed that all he wanted was money, or whatever. The bottom line is...I was not a friend to the stranger.
Maybe I'm looking for some way to justify my actions, I don't know. Maybe I'm looking for forgiveness, I don't know. Maybe I'm just trying to convince myself that it really wasn't my fault.
...but I blew it. Pure and simple.
So, John, you got me this morning. I'll work on being more patient. I'll be more intentional about not making snap judgments. I'll try a little harder to actually listen to those who are strangers to me. I'm going to screw it up again because I know me, but in recovery circles, the first step to healing is admitting there's a problem. So there it is.