I shared about this missed opportunity, this morning at my moms group, and I felt it was worthy of a blog post. I have other, more time sensitive posts lined up, but this has been weighing on my heart since Saturday night and I just feel like I need to share it. Honestly, even if this means nothing to you, it will mean something to me. See, I find myself going back and reading random blog posts I’ve written over the last few years. It’s fun for me to reminisce about funny things the kids have done, and ups and downs I’ve been through in my nearly 5 years as a parent. I figure if I can go back 6 months, a year, 3 years from now and re-read this post and feel like I’ve either done better in this area of my life, or have still be slacking off (get with it already, future Helen!) then this will be good.
This past Saturday evening, as I was sitting in church, I noticed there was a man in his 60’s sitting in the row ahead of me. He seemed to be alone, as there were a couple of empty seats on either side of him. Midway through the second song I noticed him wiping away tears, and it broke my heart. By the time we were halfway through the third song, he was wiping tears every 5 seconds or so. That third song can get me going too, especially if I’ve had a rough week, but this man was obviously going through something big. (You can watch Hillsong perform that song, on YouTube: http://youtu.be/au3EGgISYMc. It gave me goosebumps when I just watched it.)
So there I stood, singing and arguing with myself at the same time…. Do I reach forward and give this man’s shoulder a squeeze, just to let him know that I see him and he’s not alone or do I leave him alone for fear it embarrasses him that someone has seen him crying? I finally chickened out on the shoulder squeeze. When the final song ended, and he turned around to pick up his bulletin before sitting down, our eyes met and I gave him a little half-smile.
During the time of prayer, I prayed that he would feel God’s arms of comfort around him and then I was hit immediately with the realization that we are to be the arms of comfort. It isn’t often that I feel so profoundly like God is telling me to do something, but at that moment I had the strongest sense that He was telling me to give this man a hug.
Really, God? I’m pretty sure this guy will think I’m nuts if I do that. Not to mention my family sitting here, who I’m pretty sure will know I don’t know this man. I can’t hug him!
And back and forth the arguing with God went… for the entire service! The sermon was an amazing one, and once again I caught the man constantly wiping away tears. Finally, by the end of the sermon I had decided to offer a hug. I told myself that when the benediction was over and the man turned around to collect his things I would catch his eye and say “Sir, I know this sounds weird, but I have the strongest feeling from God that I’m supposed to give you a hug. Is that ok?”
Know what happened? Nothing. Before the benediction was even finished, the man walked out of the sanctuary. He never turned around again, so I was never able to make eye-contact again. He was immediately lost in the sea of people and I had missed my opportunity.
I’d missed my opportunity to be the comforting arms of God.
I’d missed my opportunity to show him (if he didn’t know already) that even at such a big church he was seen, cared for and being prayed for.
I missed it.
Here it is Wednesday, and I’m still bothered my cowardice that kept me from even offering the simple shoulder squeeze I had initially thought of. I’m well aware that clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick are things I need to be doing to live out my faith – to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but I had forgotten that I need to be watching for other, seemingly smaller ways to be Jesus to someone.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to love someone, even someone you don’t know. I know I will be and I hope I’m given a chance to do something out of my comfort zone again. I only pray the next time I don’t spend too much time “thinking” about it and miss my opportunity.
If you’re curious about the sermon, it can be watched online, by clicking this link.