Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Lesson In Silence

"It's good to shut up sometimes."
Marcel Marceau

A rather interesting quote from a man who was made famous because of his silence, don't you think? Makes me wonder about the lessons he must have learned from being so silent and just watching and listening as he mimed his way through a career and life. As I read that quote I was reminded of an experience we had at our street ministry a few years ago.

On this particular Saturday, I was behind the table serving soup and one of our volunteers at that time was standing near me serving the drinks. This was a beautiful warm day so the water was especially in demand. As I waited for the next person in line to reach me, I glanced over to see one of our regular ladies approaching the drinks. She has a very sweet and childlike spirit due to mental illness, but heavy medication tends to make her twitch with nervous laughter and talk to herself.....a lot....and loudly. Usually though, the things she says make us laugh because they are the things a 5 year old would say, blunt and yet, innocent. She has very curly blonde hair, which she usually lets go wild and bushy. She wears almost every piece of jewelry she has ever owned and odd clothing combinations on her wisp thin frame as well as about five layers of nail polish, all of which are chipped and peeling.

  I personally find her crazy irreverence completely endearing...she makes me smile, and I always look forward to seeing her, however not everyone feels the way I do. This particular day I watched as she approached the table quietly muttering to herself, and then I suddenly felt a twinge in my stomach because I knew who would be handing her the water. Now the particular volunteer who was handing out the water that day is a very kind man who loves the Lord and is always looking for ways and place to serve the church and God. A man of honor and a man of deep faith, but a man who sometimes struggles with the "unlovely" nature of street people. I quickly looked at him just in time to see him scanning her up and down and curling his lip at her current state. I was so hurt inside I wanted to lash out at him and tell him to get off the serving line if he couldn't treat her with respect. However, inside my heart I heard God tell me to keep quiet and watch what would happen next.

Just then as I saw her reach for a cup and he quickly pulled his hand away, then suddenly her previously inaudible muttering became loud enough for those listening to hear. I watched in amazement as she looked him square in the eye and in a solid and non-medicated voice she quoted him the Bible verse, "..And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Just then she took a sip and walked away and was gone for the day.

I wanted to start crying as I watched that volunteer's eyes get big and follow her as she disappeared into the crowd. God is sooooooooo GOOD, and He always gets His point across far better than we ever could. Had I lashed out at him, I would have set a bad example for all the people around me, both behind and in front of the table. I wouldn't have gained anything, but instead, would have lost the trust and respect of so many who need us to be gentle with them, and learn from our example. I also wouldn't have made the point to this young man as well as God was able to, through the vessel of a rambling street woman, the very one who should have been offended by his actions the most.

At times pride and lack of understanding can cause all of us to struggle with an intense aversion towards a lot of the very people we are called to minister to. It doesn't mean we're bad people or even bad Christians, it just means that's an area where we need to grow. Let's face it....these people are glaringly different than what we're used to, they don't speak the way we speak, they don't act the way we act, and they don't dress or smell the way we do. However, they need someone, anyone, to show them love and acceptance in a wounded lonely life where they have had little to no genuine kindness or affection. They are in fact, the entire reason we are out there...and to the heart of God...the smells of urine, sweat, dirt, cigarette smoke and alcohol are the sweet perfume of a hungry heart.....sweet enough that He gave His son for them.

I'm glad I kept my mouth shut that day, and let God work, He really does handle those situations so much better than we would.
Exodus 14:14 English Standard Version (©2001)
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

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