our wet shoe awakening
There are situations that arise in life that do more than just "happen" to you. Some situations have a way of becoming lessons that change your thinking. They rattle you to the core. They convict your heart. This weekend, Chad and I experienced one of these moments of awakening and I want to candidly share the story of our conviction.
On Saturday, Chad and I were honored to shoot a gorgeous wedding in Kenosha at the Kemper Center. We loved every minute of it! As we interacted with the Bride & Groom and their guests throughout the day, our excitement was building over the images we were capturing for them. We had poured out practically every ounce of energy we had to make their entire day extra special.
On Sunday morning Chad and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed with a little extra time before we needed to get ready for church. We began to sift through the aftermath of camera equipment and open bags that had been strewn across our apartment in our exaustion after returning the prior night. Chad began sorting all of our memory cards, and to his surprised dismay, we were one card short. We were missing the card that contained all the photos of the Bride's preparations—her dress, her shoes, getting her hair & makeup done, creative and beautiful portraits of her with her bridesmaids, etc. SO not like us... How could this happen?
We proceeded to tear apart every nook, cranny and pocket of gear in our entire apartment looking for it. Nothing. Enter pit in stomach.
Immediate change of plans: no more getting ready, no more church. The most important thing we now needed to do was backtrack every step we had taken at the Kemper Center the day before, indoor and outdoor, and if necessary, backtrack the reception location as well—ASAP, all on a Sunday morning. Will anything even be open??
We parked the car and began frantically scanning the expansive park ground for this little 1.5-inch memory card. A woman walked by and I asked her what was going on there that morning. She told me there was a small church that was meeting and that I could ask someone inside about looking around. A little boy ran to hand me a church bulletin and before I could begin to follow the woman, Chad had already found the card on the ground! WHAT??! In less than two minutes flat, we had parked the car, walked over a couple spots we had been, and practically reached down to pick it up off the ground, no sweat. Ridiculous....SO unlikely! Praise the Lord!
Elation replaced the pits in our stomach as we rejoiced over this improbible feat. Good story, right? That's what we thought, too.... "Cool, we can still make it to church if we hurry!" we said. We got what we came for (saved from looking like idiots to our client), now back to our own agenda.
Then we saw him.
There was a man dressed in black and sopping wet as if he had just climbed out of Lake Michigan (which was right next to us). He was muttering and groaning in the courtyard as if talking to an invisible person. Even walking and reaching for something that wasn't really there. I felt sad for him and said to Chad, "How does that happen? How do troubled people like that end up in places like this, homeless and alone?"
We got in the car and Chad only partly pulled out..... It hit us both at the same time like a 2x4 across the face. It happens to people like that because people like us don't stop to do anything. Why? Because we have to go to church?? Hm. Seems a little hypocritical when I put it that way, right? We spend time on mission trips praying God will provide situations like this for us to serve. Now that we're "living our daily life" and carrying out our own agendas, a situation crosses our path and we keep on walking.
Nope—not this time. God had purposed us to lose that memory card precisely there and to allow us to find it SO easily. We were there for a reason at that very time. Alright, God.....we'll do it. Use us to serve this man right now. Holy Spirit, be with us so we know how to meet his needs.
We slowly approached him at the table where he was now sitting. His beard was long, his teeth were jagged and dirty, his body was drenched. He was afraid of us, thinking we were cops. We couldn't understand anything he was mumbling—as if he had a mouthful of marbles. We think he said he was trying to hide. I asked him his name. He repeated it a few times...we'll call him Jeffrey. That's the closest we could figure it was. Jeffrey got up abruptly, shouting mumbles, and left us sitting at the table. Lord, that's it?? We couldn't understand a word he said and don't even know what he needs!
Chad and I instantly prayed for more wisdom in the situation. When I looked up, I saw his wet shoe prints leading away. That was it! We may not know anything about this man or about what he had been through or why he was there, but we could tell that his shoes were wet. "Chad, let's go—you're going to give him your shoes!"
We followed the wet trail and caught up to him. He was initially reluctant, but when Chad took his shoes off and handed them to him, Jeffrey's face lit up! "Walk with me, talk with me!" he exclaimed—it was the only thing we understood him say. After a couple more minutes of Chad walking with him in garbled conversation (in his socks, mind you), Jeffrey said that he needed to go. We'll never know if the shoes actually fit him. We'll never know what he actually said to us. But that wasn't the point of this divine meeting.
The point of this meeting was for God to teach us a lesson. He reminded us that we were created for a reason: to love God and to love people. As humans, we're called to take care of one another. Giving Jeffrey a pair of shoes was not hard. Chad has other shoes! It didn't take weeks of planning, fund raising, or a committee to help him. All it took was for us to set aside our own agenda for a moment...to be aware of our surroundings and to be obedient to the tugging of the Holy Spirit to actually DO SOMETHING about it.
As if that weren't already enough.... God blew us away again. On the car ride to church, I opened up the bulletin that the little boy had given me. Their lesson for the morning came from Jeremiah 23:1-4, which further confirmed the lesson we had just learned:
“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord.
Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them.But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number.Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Now we really did have a reason to go to church! We presented this story and challenge to be "responsible shepherds" to our young adult group as soon as we could. ...And not at all in a "listen to what we did" kind of way for the purpose of earning gold stars from our friends, but in a "this is what God taught us this morning" kind of way that admits our selfish nature. As a group, we've been talking about practical ways & ideas to live out our faith—this conviction regarding Jeffrey gave us the push we needed toward simplicity.
All we have to do to live out our faith is JUST START DOING IT. If you see someone who needs help, HELP! If you feel lead to pray with someone, PRAY! Instead of gathering with your Christian friends to "hang out" all the time, how about gathering with them to intentionally SERVE together, even last-minute? And so we will. That's what we're called to do.
Ask God how he wants you to serve in this moment, and then just listen and do it! Simple. You never know what kind of divine adventure you may end up on...