“Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Do not banish me from your presence,

and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,

and they will return to you.”

Psalms 51:10~13 NLT

Have you ever asked for, prayed for, longed for an opportunity and then when it is literally, physically standing smack in your way…you miss it? I did.

I did. And it has left me soul weary.

This past Wednesday, as we typically do, my sister in law (my personal nurse, driver, friend) and I went to Senior Bible Study.

Since the “double nickel” birthday I am no longer a rogue. I’m legit. One of them. It was the place where I first began to build community in our new church home. I elbowed and edged my way in ’till I found a place. Soaking up wisdom and love. Observing how tenderly they ministered to their own.

I’m telling you it’s a powerful experience no matter your age or season of life.

We happen to have a guest speaker on this particular day. He spoke a strong message. Spoke it straight to me. “Game Changers”, he called it. His passion for spending time in The Word, I shared. The still small voice in my spirit, like him, I have heard. I was on the edge of my seat. Excited to meet him and share my own experiences and passion.

Before long his message took a turn. A turn down a path that had been burning in my heart. Sharing Jesus to the lost soul, the unsaved, the rebel. His passion for not missing a single one, washed all over me.

He wrapped up. I sat slack jawed.

Jumping up as fast as my body could, I managed to corner him. Bend his ear. Sharing a bit of my story. How I pray from Psalms 51 every day…“Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.”

We opened the door to leave, made our way to the car. The wind was howling. A torrential downpour was blowing sideways. Raincoat on, I ran like a turtle to the wrong car. When the door wouldn’t open, I scurry to the right one. Soaked right through.

By the time I made it in the house, my once too tight shoes, soaked and pliable, had begun to stretch. (I’ll be wearing them more often now!)

I had several hours to dry out. Contemplate the message that had stirred me so. I had been thinking about those “rebels” there in Psalms for several weeks now. Asking God exactly what that looks like for me.

I no longer drive, (per doctor’s orders). My life is somewhat cushioned and isolated. I’m surrounded by a wonderful community of friends and family. Jesus lovers. Fellow Christians. So where will the rebels come from, Lord? I had asked that question many times over the past weeks. Praying for opportunity, open doors, a heart that loves big.

It’s our usual Wednesday practice to meet up with my sweet man for dinner at the local greasy spoon. So out we go into another driving rain. Same shoes. Still damp. And cold.

We had dinner. Lingered long. It was getting late.

As I am waiting by the door, while the check is being taken care of, a man walks in.

He was soaked to the bone, tattered back pack in hand. I smiled. He smiled, offered to hold the door for me. With a kind “Christian” voice, I replied, “no, but thanks, I’m waiting on them.”

We chatted a minute about the nastiness of the weather. He went on to tell me where he had walked from. I knew the area. Knew it was a far piece. I was pretty sure I knew why he came from there. I had been there once before with our Church, participating in the Hotel Feeding Ministry. I had seen the brokenness. The haunted eyes. Hungry hearts. Weary souls.

He had nowhere else to go. No home. No family, I suspect.

It quickly danced across my mind why he was there. Maybe just to dry out and sit a spell. Possibly looking for a meal. A hot cup of coffee. As quickly as the thought danced across my mind, it danced right out the back door.

I mean, I was being nice. Friendly. Offered conversation, where most would turn away. Playing at Christianity. Comfortable Christianity.

Honestly, I wasn’t even present in the moment. I was cold. I was tired. My feet were wet. It was not the best time of day physically with my disease. I am adversely affected by the weather. The rain was still coming down in sheets. Still blowing sideways.  Cold, my constant companion, inside and out.

I was focused solely on me. My discomfort. My own pain. My disease, which of late, I have spent way too much time wallowing around in. And yet, my tummy was full, I had a warm home and comfortable bed to climb into. Clean, dry clothes to put on.

With one last smile, a paltry offering of words…take care…and out the door we went.

I was quiet on the ride home. These words ringing in my ear, loud and clear…

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:45 NIV

Last week in her blog, Ann Voskamp, shared this quote…“Love one another means, love the other.”

I had failed. Oh, I loved him. But I had missed the very thing I had been asking God for. A chance. An opportunity to share Him with the other, the rebel, the unsaved.

I hadn’t even offered the weary soul a meal to warm his bones.

So focused on me, and my own cold, wet feet, I failed to put feet to the Words I read and cherish every day.

I dreamed of hungry bellies, and haunted eyes that night. Dreamed I had turned away Jesus himself. Because I had…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me, Tammy.

There is just no pretty way to clean this story up. Tie it neatly in a pretty bow. Except to say over the hours and days that followed, there was much time on bended knee.

My only hope is that I learned. Learned hard and fast from a missed opportunity. And through that, I pray I will not miss it again.

Sometimes it is the hard lessons that stick. The ones we miss that hurt the most.

Graced by God

Tammy Mashburn