Experiencing God's People God's Way

Learning To Experience God's People God's Way

Psalm 21,3-4a: "For you meet him with the blessings of goodness. You set a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life from You and you gave it to him..." 

One of the new things about life in Jesus is you get to experience God's people God's way.

It's not like you aren't tempted to skip over these new experiences, but there are times when you can't miss the lessons of love coming at you.

One Sunday night, after the last service, a doting grandma was following me about as I closed up the church, and telling me of her daughter having her fourth, hungry, child.

My spirit faltered as I reflexively asked (like a dumb ox) "What?"

Four years later after that same Sunday "Night" service, I bought Grandma and her four year old grand-daughter, and her three sisters, "Happy Meals."

And that four year old knew perfectly well she was the one in whose honor we were enjoying this feast. So she put down a gnawed chicken nugget, and sat up as tall as she could in her plastic chair, tilted her head to one side, and shot me an upward smile of gratitude that about killed the last vestige of half-heartedness in me.

I'll never forget it.

Praise Jesus this McDonald's moment was preceded long before, and set up by my heart being broken, praise Jesus, about three years after I started following him. How it happened is I got to be a part of a weekly fellowship group for the handicapped.

As the new guy in the group, they assigned me to one of the stars of it. Everybody knew everybody's name. But everybody not only knew this gal's name, but folks said it over and over in that it was easy to remember, and it just lit up her face and yours.

She was so well-liked, you also just said it even when you didn't need to, even sort of loudly.  There was even a bit of victory in saying it. So that's what everybody did.

I don't have medical words to describe her, but she was about twenty-one and strapped in to her wheelchair. What did I know, but I would sit beside her and wipe her chin, and ocassionally say her name, and gently squeeze her hand, fixed to her arm rest.

When I had some real courage I'd say a few words, though she didn't use words to tell you what was going on.

After two or three visits here, I knew I had become a human being at least.

Then maybe ten years after that (and after The McDonald's) I got to tell her story to someone in a similar situation.

It's not like I planned to tell it.

But this second handicapped gal was talkative, not that she used many words you might understand, but talk she did. She used half words, nicknames, made up words, joyful sounds, her own language, lyrics, all sorts of sounds and perhaps languages I didn't know yet and had never heard before.

She smiled or she looked serious, or got loud, or got whispery, or changed tone, and perhaps her audience for all I know. And well it lit up the room, and was  like a twice daily occurrence. All you had to do was tune in.

This running narrative was aimed in all directions (mostly upwards I reckon), often in the disarming and gentle upward inflection of a feminine, Mexican spanish. For half hours at a time, she continued, no less. It was like she could become your favorite radio program!

These stories were important to her, and though she didn't insist that you or her mother or the rest of the family or anybody visible had to stay close and listen, she took great care in them. It was like they were her art work. They began with great energy and ended, after considerable effort, with peace and even sleep.

It's as if when she was done, she had said what she had to say, and that was that, until the next one.

So I figured if she's going to keep telling these stories, I'll tell her of the star of the handicapped fellowship group.

And so days go by and my new Mexican sister in the faith would launch into one of her stories (or was she prophesying?) and somewhere in it, she'd just sprinkle in the name of the first handicapped gal, the name that lit up everybody's face. Or, in another story, she'd get all excited and state her name, again and again.

And she didn't just do this on one day, and forget it the next. There the name was again two days later, just to let you know she listened to your stories, and to check, if you were still listening to hers.

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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.