I was in the middle of doing two good deeds. Donating money to the Pregnancy Care Center and donating much needed bedding for incoming refugees to World Relief. I was feeling so accomplished. I had been meaning to do these things for several days and I hadn’t gotten around to it, but woah can I get some stuff done when my kids are at school. My list was long that day, and I just killed the whole thing. It was beautiful really. And orderly. And I was prancing to my car to finish my last errand before work when I was approached by a man.
‘Can you spare a few dollars? I am really hungry.’
Crap. I don’t have dollars. I never have dollars.
‘I’m so sorry, I don’t even have a dollar. I’m so sorry.’
He looked at me with disdain. Like ‘whatever lady’. He even said ‘psh’ as he walked away.
Dangit. My do-gooder bubble was officially busted.
Suddenly, I remembered my lunch! I had Josiah’s Thor lunch box full of homemade chicken-n-dumplings and green beans, which was to be my dinner. So I hurriedly unlocked the car, reached over to get the lunch and thought,
‘I wonder if I should just give him the granola bar? He has no way to heat these dumplings up (I know. Don’t even). Plus is it weird to just give him the lunch box? And what will he do with all these containers? I don’t even have a fork in here.’ My thoughts were racing at about 10,000/second.
I opted for the safe pre-packaged granola bar. Additionally, I admit, I’m a scaredy cat. This was not the best part of town. I had already scanned the area, aware of all surroundings, in broad daylight. There were 3 construction workers within spitting distance. There were two people with a phone within yelling distance. I had my keys between my fingers. Public universities ran some sort of campaign in the late 90s that trained women to fear being abducted and tortured. And because I was born nervous, I stay prepared.
This whole thought process took about 15 seconds. I turned around with granola bar in hand and my best servant smile and started to yell, ‘you can have this!’
But he was gone.
He was nowhere.
I looked all around in every direction and couldn’t see him. I got in my car and drove around and couldn’t find him.
Gone the opportunity to serve. Gone the opportunity to love. Gone the opportunity to practice what I had literally preached just a few short weeks before.
For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…..
I finished my last errand, and went to work. I couldn’t get a handle on this. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t get centered even. I failed that one. FAILED. I could have taken him to get a meal. Or the safer ‘wait there, I’ll be right back with a meal.’ I could have done a number of things.
I was feeling so defeated. Like an utter failure. For several months my heart cry has been, Lord! I want to love the least of these! the way you did! the way you commanded us to! Lord, I want to love my neighbor as myself and keep your commands! I’ve been consumed with these thoughts. Consumed.
And in His infinite wisdom and abundant grace He whispered in my spirit,
First thing’s first.
What do you mean Lord?
First thing’s first.
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
First thing’s first.
How can I love others well if I don’t love God more? He is love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have [God], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have [God], I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have [God], I gain nothing.
May my human doings be replaced with my human being. May I be consumed with You, and only YOU. And then, and next, and second, and only after I am filled with your all-consuming-fire, may I love others. May I serve and love and help and witness and teach only from a heart that is so full of You, that loving others is the only possible existence. But in so doing, may I never neglect to first seek You, to first know You, to first love You.