can i get a witness?

Sweet Gran (my stepmother's mother - well technically, she is my former-stepmother's mother, but i'll save those details for one of my "dysfunctional family blogs")... I digress, sweet Gran turned sweet 95 this past week and we were invited to a weekend-long celebration in Point Clear. It was sort of like a three day wedding, you know, complete with a pool party, a cookout, a cocktail hour, a dinner party and a big family brunch on Sunday. I had been dreading making this trip alone with the kids, but felt it was important for them to see this side of our family, especially my Dad and brothers, who we don't get to see very often. I consoled myself by reminding myself constantly that it was a quick trip. You know, only a four hour drive... Oh, how I wish....

The drive down was horrendous. Hear me, horrendous! Literally. I am not kidding. Seven long hours; one stop for disciplinary action (within the first hour); two stops for potty breaks; two torrential downpours (I'm talking rain so hard that all of the vehicles had on flashers and I was, literally, praying out loud to God to keep us safe); an accident that had us in a total standstill for a half hour' and then, two very close calls of our own - one in which my car was (apparently) in the blind spot of an SUV that was changing lanes and missed the front end of my car by inches and the second - I completely lost control of my car and fishtailed across the interstate. Fifteen seconds of the worst fear I have ever felt, followed by tears, shaking and a solid fifteen minutes of the most heartfelt prayers I have ever prayed. Believe me when I tell you that country song, "Jesus Take the Wheel" has an entirely new meaning to me now.

Thirty minutes later and three hours late, we arrive at the hotel. Yeah. You can imagine what I'm looking like at this point. After prying my fingers from the wheel, I stepped out of the car into the sauna-like humidity. My hair, which had been the only feature remaining intact from morning preparation, went "POOF" in an instant. Not completely unlike a chia pet. Only much faster. You know, like the commercial speed of growth: "chachacha CHIA!" To make matters worse, we then had to hop a golf-cart shuttle to the pool area where the late afternoon "grown ups' cocktail/kids' pool hour" was already in full swing.

My family [some of whom I have not seen since my teenage years - and some new ones, by marriage, whom I'd never laid eyes on] were all gathered at a large table on the covered patio area by the pool. They are relaxing, laughing, enjoying conversation... and here I come: hot, sweaty, frizzy, red-eyed, tear-stained, stressed out, loaded down with my purse, camera bag, tote bag on one arm; the other arm extended to hold Chloe's hand and Parker is hanging, literally hanging, on my right leg. Oh, and he's crying.

What is that they say about first impressions?

I have no recollection of what my actual facial expression on my face - or theirs - must have been as I wobbled up to the table, threw my bags down onto a smaller table nearby and declared, "I need a drink!!".

Oh, how I wish I were making that up.

Within few minutes, my kids were happily splashing in the pool, I had stopped sweating profusely, had pulled my unmanageable chia-hair into a clip and was eagerly waiting for my frosty, fruity drink. I could see the waiter coming, carrying his little circular tray: a cold, bottled beer perched on one side and there, right across from it, my frosty, fruity concoction - complete with a pineapple hanging off the side. I couldn't wait. He was moving too slow. I jumped up from my chair, ran towards him and in one sweeping motion, swiped the drink and took a ginormous, brain freeze-inducing sip. "Um, I'm not your waiter," he said. I looked him - dead in the eye - hoping he'd sense my desperation - as if it were not vividly written across my tear-stained, sweaty, brain-frozen face. "You have to give me this drink," I said. "You just have to." And he did. I would've probably worried about whether or not I had frightened him, but my brain was hurting too bad.

A little while later this same sweet kid came to check on me and we struck up a conversation. I read somewhere (probably on a piece of Facebook flair) that: "strangers are just friends waiting to happen". While I'm not about to teach my children that motto, I do want them to know that every single human is loved by God and desired by God. God purposes us to be witnesses of His love - strangers [to Him] are simply waiting [for our witness] to happen. The lost are waiting for someone, anyone, to share God's love. They are waiting for a light to pierce the darkness. We are the light of the world. (Eph 5:8-10)

For this guy, the Jamaican server who comes to the US during the season to work at The Grand, the wait ended through a hot, sweaty, stressed out mess of a woman. A simple conversation about events of the weekend evolved into one of the most in-depth, theological discussions - and perhaps the most passionate sharing of God's redemptive work in my life - that I have ever experienced. He has a pretty remarkable story, having grown up being forced to attend church and later resenting it. His mother is a Christian and his father is a devout Jehovah's Witness and he, by his own admission, was torn between the conflicting faith of his parents. I opened my mouth to speak, but after the ride I'd just been on, there was no way the words that flowed so eloquently and effortlessly out of my mouth were my own. Admittedly, I am ill-equipped to challenge or debate theological differences. I am, however, not ill-equipped to share God's love and to encourage those who are lost, who think they are found and those wandering in between to seek the Truth that lies in John 14:6 where Jesus says: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes through the Father except through me".

I looked at this kid, the one who just an hour earlier I'd practically assaulted to swipe a drink from his tray and summed up our chat by saying, "Here's the deal, I cannot tell you with any authority what is "right or wrong", but there is One who can. I know Him and even better, He wants to know you... and when that happens - when you know Him and you trust Him - He will turn those indefinable shades of gray in your heart to black and white, revealing what is darkness and what is light. I don't know much, but I know this: "You will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul." (Dt. 4:29)

I settled back in my lounge chair, watching the kids play. Really? Really, God? Did that just happen? I thought back across every moment of my horrendous journey and every moment that had led to that ONE... and was consequently, rendered speechless.

We do not have to run out and seek those to whom we need to share God's love. He places them directly - and indirectly - in our path. And yet, we slam the door in the face of the lost when they come knocking, literally knocking on our front steps. We run away from the dirty, the poor, the afflicted, the "less than desirable". we run because these are the ones that reflect outwardly who we are ourselves on the inside, apart from Christ. of this, i am living proof. and these - both inward and outward clothed in rags - are the ones He came to redeem. yes, every single one of us.

I shuttered to think of the inestimable opportunities squandered over the decades of living a life completely enveloped in my own selfishness. Unable to share this unfathomable love because I, myself, had been too blind, too hard-heartened, too selfish to accept it.

"Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. See, I am doing a new thing."
- Isaiah 43:19. Praise God for doing a "new thing" with me, in me and in my life.

I looked at my children again and thought to myself, if there is one thing I am going to teach them about strangers, it is not to slam the door in the face of Jehovah's Witnesses when they come knocking. But to invite them in, give them a drink and become a witness to them of the One True Love. He opens the eyes of our hearts to see, the ears of our minds to hear and our mouths to speak His truth ... If only you let Him... that our lives are not for our own pleasure, but for His glory.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

This unfathomable love of God knows no racial, religious, cultural or socioeconomic boundaries. It is limitless...

But are we?


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