Stop. Pray. Do the Unexpected.
I am challenged by Scripture’s consistent teaching that Jesus saw people in the context of their entire life’s journey and responded accordingly. The woman at the well was not a despised Samaritan of dubious reputation, but a woman who was spiritually lost looking for living water. The man at the side of the road in Jericho was not an annoyance, a speed bump on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem, but a man whose entire life of dependence, subsistence, hopelessness and despair came down to this one divine encounter. The children who were disturbing others were called to Jesus’ arms, and as he embraced them he saw their futures impacted and changed forever by this engagement with the savior of the world.
What challenges me is that I so often see people only in the instance of my encountering them, what I call the ‘static moment’. I seldom stop to consider them in the context of their journey. Yet I am convinced that God wants us to lead with an openness toward the Holy Spirit working in us that we might be sensitive to the bigger picture that is always going on around us.
The question for us as steward leaders is ‘whose agenda dominates our relationships?’ When I charge into my day pursuing the goals and to-do items that will determine my ‘success’ for the day, I will always see the people I encounter in this static way. I just don’t have time for anything else. They will then become either a means to accomplishing my agenda (with huge implications for the way I manage others) , or an obstacle to be overcome or avoided. Either way, there will be precious little opportunity to see them as God sees them.
I was flying back from a business trip when I encountered a frustrating flight delay that would likely cause me to miss a connection, resulting in an extra night in an airport hotel tacked on to an already long trip. Two gate agents were working furiously to accommodate growing lines of angry passengers who faced a similar fate. After the last person had been served, the two sat behind their computer terminals in a daze. Fifteen minutes went by and still no plane or update on its status came. My frustration reached a tipping point. I rose to my feet, gripping my boarding pass, and began walking toward one of the gate agents. I would be polite, but my tone would be sharp and my words expressive of just how incompetently I felt the whole situation had been handled. As I moved up in front of the beleaguered woman behind the computer screen, another man stepped forward and spoke before I could.
“Hey, I just want you both to know how much we all appreciate what you’re trying to do for us. I know this is a lousy situation, but you have done a great job. I’m going down to Starbucks to pick up some coffee—can I get you anything while I’m there?”
I will never forget the looks of surprise and gratitude on their faces. Nor will I forget the pain in my spirit. I was about to respond in the heat of the static moment, and this man had considered these two women in the context of their larger journey and blessed them. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.
We work with people every day who, like the woman at the well, the blind man in Jericho and those two agents at the airline counter, desperately need a word of encouragement, of compassion, and of hope. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, His response was completely unexpected. When that man approached the airline ticket counter, his comments were the last thing anyone expected to hear.
Will you cultivate the heart of a steward leader and be ready to respond like Jesus?
Ask God to prepare your heart to do something unexpected today. Look for an opportunity to respond to a situation in the least expected way—which means responding as Jesus would. It will mean setting aside your own agenda. It means stopping. Praying. Not worrying about getting your own way or justifying your actions, or even accomplishing your goals. It will mean looking at life from the perspective of the other person and responding in a way that meets their needs, not yours. It might be the highlight of your day. Will you pray for it?