(Written for the Broomfield United Methodist Blog originally posted on April 29th, 2016)
She loved me within seconds. I’d never met this stranger before and I had no reason to believe she’d have more to say to me than a simple hello. But she seemed delighted in me. Her eyes looked straight into my heart. Then she held my face and said my name with the voice of an angel, “Theresa, a beautiful name and a beautiful person. Bless you.” The compassion and pure joy in her voice made time stand still. With one sentence and my face cupped in her hands, I felt like I had always known her.
I’d love to reveal that this angel of a woman was a famous celebrity but she wasn’t. I was having lunch with a local pastor a few days ago to introduce her to the work of El Porvenir, the clean water non-profit I work for. As I began talking about El Porvenir she recognized an elderly couple and stopped our conversation to introduce me to them. The wife asked me what I was sharing with the Pastor, so I explained “I work for an organization called El Porvenir. We partner with rural Nicaraguan families so that the poorest communities in Nicaragua have access to safe, clean water.” With conviction in her voice she repeated everything I said back to her husband, then she wrapped her arms around me and said, “that is beautiful, you are beautiful, how wonderful, Bless you, God bless you.” We talked for total of 8 minutes, the entire time this gracious lady was encouraging me and blessing me.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS ENCOUNTER THAT HAS WRECKED ME?
This stranger was so delighted in me that I didn’t know where I was. If she hadn’t been so genuine it would have been awkward but it wasn’t. Most the time, when I meet people, if they seem too interested in me I get kind of creeped out. But the loving soul of this stranger has convicted me. The truth is I can’t say I often take the opportunity to delight in people, especially people I’ve never met before.
When I meet people it usually goes down like this…
1. “Hey nice to meet you”, polite hand shake, then small talk “jeesh this weather is crazy right”, we go our separate way within a few minutes of being introduced with no expectation of ever having to talk to one another again. Phew, so glad that wasn’t awkward.
2. A friend introduces me to someone for the first time. While they talk I study new person’s vibe. Does new person seem friendly, are they funny, what are they about, what do they do, etc.? So many questions, so little time.
3. I meet someone new and we hit it off. Conversation is flowing easily, in fact, I’ve wanted to meet this person and I’m happy we’ve finally been introduced. We say we would love to hang out sometime but then we never get around to it.
4. Stranger says hi to me, I say hi back, we both nod and walk away.
We meet new people all the time. Every day there’s a chance we might be introduced to a stranger. Just this past week I’ve been introduce to over a dozen people I’ve never met before. Honestly, I don’t think I’m making the most of these encounters. FundersandFounders.com suggest that with the average life span of 78 years, if we live in the city and meet 3 new people a day, we would have the opportunity to meet 80,000 people in our life time. Even if you cut that number in half, that’s a lot of people. What if we weren’t in a hurry when we met people? What if, instead of figuring them out we just listened and looked for a reason to be delighted? What if we saw an opportunity to serve rather than be served?
The encounter I had this week I know is rare. It’s what I imagine it would be like if I met an angle or God himself. Who meets someone new and holds their face with delight and blesses them? Well, we know this about Jesus from the accounts in the gospels –
+Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well and asks her for a drink. She is blown away because Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans and did not usually talk to them. But he did. When she asked, “why are you talking to me?” Jesus replied, “You have no idea the gift God has for you,” then he offered her living water. The disciples we shocked to find Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman but according to the scripture none of them had the nerve to ask him about it.
+Jesus meets a roman officer. The officer knows that Jesus is the messiah and can heal his servant who has just been paralyzed. He believes Jesus has the authority to heal his servant right where he stands. The bible says Jesus was amazed by the officer’s faith. He heals the roman officer’s servant that very hour.
+Jesus meets a group of parents who brought their children to Jesus to be blessed. The disciples scold the parents for bothering Jesus. Jesus say’s to his disciples, “don’t stop them.” He takes the children in his arms and blesses them.
What do these encounters tell us about Jesus?
1. Jesus broke cultural norms to offer a stranger eternal life.
2. Jesus loved and served his enemies.
3. Jesus stopped to bless those his followers didn’t think he had time to be bothered with.
When Jesus was introduced to people he was gracious, he loved, and was delighted in ALL of them. Every day, we have the opportunity to love and serve people we’ve never met before. Will we make the most of those opportunities? Are we willing to break cultural norms? Would we willingly help our enemy? Do we have time to stop for those no one else has time for? Or will it just be another introduction of the thousands we will encounter in our life time?
This week, a stranger held my face and blessed me and I will never be the same again!