Aren’t these flowers beautiful? What special occasion were they for I hear you ask…well, none! My husband is not usually a spontaneous buyer of flowers for me, but the other day he did just that – a little something, just because. They weren’t wildly expensive, and they weren’t from a posh boutique florist, but after 9 years of marriage we’re really focussing in at the moment on helping each other to feel loved, and to feel special. And it worked! There was nothing he needed to say thank you for, or sorry for, for that matter! And in fact that day it had been him who had borne the brunt of the work in our home and in our family, and that made it even more precious. It meant they were for me, just because of who I am, not what I had done. My heart swelled a little more, and a joyous warmth crept over me.
So I wondered to myself, how could I pay that forward, not only to my husband (that’s in hand), but perhaps to someone who doesn’t have someone to make them feel special, or whose life situation would make even a little bunch of supermarket flowers seem extravagant?
A week or so ago I saw a Big Issue seller when I was mooching about in London after a night out with one of my very best friends, and these verses came to mind:
“ ‘I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (The Message)
I knew I couldn’t just walk by and do nothing, so I popped into the nearest shop, bought a drink and some chocolate, and made sure I had enough change to buy a magazine from him. I’ve done that before in my home town, but on that day I also wanted to give him something he couldn’t buy, something that would bless him and let him know he was special and he was loved. So…with my learning from the Exploring the Prophetic day, with Liz Evans, at The Mariner’s Church in Gloucester fresh in my mind (more on that another day) I asked the Lord for a picture to give to this man, and for a sense of what He was saying through that image.
Then with some trepidation I went outside ready to bless him! And he had disappeared! Brilliant, I thought, now what do I do?!
I stood for a few moments feeling rather silly, just outside Covent Garden looking up and down the street, trying not to catch the eye of one of the many street performers, I really didn’t need to get drawn into an act at that point? Eventually I spotted a guy he had been talking to just before I’d gone into the shop. I couldn’t quite tell if he too was a Big Issue seller, as he was sat down to one side and didn’t have his tabard on. I tentatively asked him if I was right in thinking that I had just seen him talking to a guy selling the Big Issue, and he said yes, do you want to buy one? So I had a quick word with the ‘Big Man upstairs’ and asked him if the word I had had was in fact for this man instead of the other, and I felt that peaceful, settled feeling inside signifying that yes, it was for him. You see, God knew the other guy would leave, and he knew too that the man I had presumed was just someone the seller knew was also a Big Issue seller – there is nothing that is unknown to the God of all Creation!
As I handed over my coins for the magazine I explained very quickly and briefly that I wanted to bless him as that is what Jesus would do if He were here, and asked him if he would like the things I’d bought, and he looked so shocked and grateful. While he was still surprised, I casually said that when I had seen him a picture had come to mind, which I described and said that I felt was the Lord wanting to share something of how He saw him, and that He saw what was beneath, which no one else saw, and that that was pleasing to Him. My heart was hammering in my mouth, and he didn’t really say much in reply except, something along the lines of, “oh right, yeah, thanks”, but thankfully he didn’t turn and run for the hills, or respond negatively to this ‘God-botherer’, a phrase I heard for the first time that weekend (not unkindly) in conversation with someone when talking about faith! (Actually I don’t mind being seen as someone who bothers God, and I think Jesus would positively encourage that; not quite sure that’s how it’s really meant though!)
All in all, not a roaring success in the manner of Wesley perhaps, but also not a resounding failure. I think it’s so important that we (and I) recognise that blips, indifferent experiences, mess-ups and all-out-disasters are all part of life and of our journey of learning. Comparing it for a moment with photography, I think that if I insisted that every photo I took were perfect, then I would just give up completely, but instead with the wonder of the digital age, I can take many pictures, choose the best, learn from my mistakes and delete the rest! In this way my adventure in imperfection continues, as does my dancing with the Spirit. And I feel encouraged.
Could you reach out to someone today to make their day a little brighter? You may not yet know who that might be, but if you set out with the intention of looking for such opportunities, then it’s amazing how many will come along. And if you’re of the praying persuasion…well then, as you go out of the house, or even simply go online, why not offer up a one-line prayer that Jesus would put someone across your path today whom you could bless?
In fact you could bless me ;-). What encouragements could you share of how you have reached out to someone who was ‘overlooked or ignored’, or how you in turn have been reached out to?