This is the season some find themselves asking how they can give back to the community in which they live, or meet the needs of those across the many miles in some remote parts of the world. There will be shoe boxes filled with toiletries for the homeless, soup kitchens filled to he brim with those seeking a warm meal or two, and trees lining the malls with little tags of some children hoping for a special gift this holiday season. In short, there will be many demands, but none so loud as the "demand" of the one right in front of us. Before we look too far outside our own "view" today, let us begin to explore a little about how well we are doing with those we are the closest to!
As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. (Philippians 1:22 MSG)
Now, before you go and call me a heretic for not "going into all the world to proclaim the gospel message", let me explain. We oftentimes overlook those closest to us - sometimes the ones with the greatest need we could ever imagine. We see the global picture while forgetting the "immediate" picture. What would it take to really meet the unspoken need of your spouse today? Or perhaps the silently held hope of your closest friend? What are your children really saying with their eyes, not their mouths?
In writing to the Philippian church, Paul was in prison at the time. He had just finished telling them he was totally content in his circumstances - not because it was a posh surrounding, but because of the one who walked with him even in the midst of the darkness of the cell (Jesus). Now, he reminds them (and us), as long as we are alive - we have a good work to do! Lately, I have come to understand this lesson quite well. Let me explain.
Mom is now nearly 94 years old, her vision is almost completely gone, her feeling in her hands has been slowly slipping away, and her clarity of mind is now gradually following suit. She has a way of coming closer when she wants to hear, because her hearing is no longer corrected well with her hearing aides. But...I have noticed something lately which speaks volumes to me. You see, we sold our old kitchen table with its three chairs at our garage sale a few weeks back. We didn't have a new table yet, but we did it anyway. As a result, I had to bring inside a small patio table and two chairs. Not very flattering in the kitchen, but oh well!
You know what - she doesn't want me to get the new table! She likes the "closeness" of the wee table. It brings us together - literally knee-to-knee! She can reach out, touch me, and she knows I am there. I can remind her the potatoes are at 3 o'clock on the plate, while eating my own. In observing her over the past few weeks, I have seen several things I'd like to share which have become a blessing to me:
- She moves closer when she wants to hear. Since she can no longer see our faces, she moves closer to us in order to hear us. You know, I think God may just intend for us to take this lesson to heart! We often don't "see" things well in life. In those times, we need to recognize the best place to be is "closer" to him! In so doing, we place ourselves in a position of hearing!
- She likes the nearness of another. We don't have to say much to each other, but when we are close by each other, she is at ease and there is a comfort she experiences. In thinking about this little trait, I cannot but think how blessed we are to draw near to our Savior! We may not need to say much to him, but there is something quite awesome in just being right up beside him!
- She relies on me to bring clarity in those "unclear" times. As her memory fades in and out, what we discussed yesterday may not always be there today. It seems a little frustrating at times to have to repeat it all again, but then it dawned on me - how many times has God had to repeat the same things to me over-and-over again? We all need a little "clarity" in the "unclear" times, don't we?
We will get the new table as it is already ordered and on its way. But...we will continue to eat "knee-to-knee" even after it comes! I will take the chair right next to hers. There is something quite awesome and humbling in knowing she finds comfort in my being there for her. My challenge to you today is to look "within" your immediate circle. Their unspoken needs may be the ones "speaking" the loudest! We just need to have the ears to hear! Just sayin!