Saturday, August 9, 2014

Failing Forward

I have a confession to make. I failed the other day. Earlier in the week (I think it was Monday or Tuesday), as I was walking out of work (Target is my second job), there were two guys sitting on the bench outside the exit doors. They appeared to be traveling musicians (not that their appearance should make a difference). One of them asked if I could spare some change, which, for once, I could (I don't normally carry cash). Without even looking up, I said that I didn't have any, and kept walking. I was a bit preoccupied, because my wife was out of one of her medications, and I was looking at my phone to see if it had been filled so I could grab it on the way home.
The guy's response was priceless: "okay, have a nice day." But there was respect, and honesty in his voice that I wasn't expecting. He said it in such a way that I was sure he was perfectly okay with my lack of giving. He could have been a jerk about it, but he was kind. I think that's what got me the most. As I made it to the car, I realized too late that I missed an opportunity to minister to someone else. And I started to beat myself up about it. I'm a pastor, and a Methodist pastor at that. Serving the poor and disenfranchised is what Methodism is all about.
And while I recognize that my understanding of the situation now changes nothing about the outcome, the simple fact remains, that, when the opportunity came to be Jesus to someone else, I blew it, big time. The thought also occurs to me that in one sense, this random stranger showed Jesus to me.
Would a dollar gave put me out? No. Did I have change to spare? This time, I did. And once again, his kindness is what got me the most.
If I had to do it again, it would look something more like me giving the guy the dollar I had in my wallet, and stopping to take the time to ask about who they were and what they were doing. They had guitars, maybe we could have talked about that, or I could have asked about their music, or whatever.
Several months earlier while at work, I was helping a guy buy a pair of Bose ear buds, who openly admitted to me that it had only taken him about an hour or so to get enough money to buy them, and that he lost the previous pair in a drug deal gone bad.  Having heard that, it forced me to re-evaluate my position on giving money to homeless people (or seemingly homeless people, for that matter).  And, while, you could make the argument that how they spend the money you give them should be a reason for concern, or at least, further inquiry, that's not "the more excellent way." When I reflected on it, further, however, I realized that my position shouldn't change. At all.
Just like for our salvation, God extends love and grace to all humanity, regardless of who they are or what they have done, being a disciple of Jesus means doing the same thing for others. Just because I might be a bit put off by how someone looks, or dresses, or acts, my duty as a Methodist (and further, as a disciple of Christ), is to "freely give" as I have freely received (Matthew 10:8).
But what's done is done. Instead of internalizing it, and putting myself down over it, though, I'm choosing to see it as a learning experience.
Here's to failing forward, friends.
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.