The place between desire and action is called good intentions. Sadly I get stuck there and after many, somewhat legitimate, excuses, I think, “Well, God will understand. He knows the intentions of my heart.” Right? Just last night I had a hard lesson in obedience and good intentions. And, I found my answer.
I had been praying this last week for an opportunity to share Jesus with someone. I had just helped our church with a spur of the moment mission opportunity. They were gathering coats and blankets for those that would be out in the cold during a 3 day freeze, which is quite unusual for our hometown of Houston. My kids and I saw an opportunity to help the homeless, and we jumped on board. We sent out emails, picked up bags of blankets and coats, bought supplies with our benevolence jar, and spent a few hours boxing and sorting. When it was all done, we felt satisfied that we had served God’s kingdom. As a family, we prayed for those who received the coats and I remember thinking how fun it would be for those who actually got to hand them out.
Then the very next night I had the opportunity. Driving the babysitter home after a much needed date night, we stopped at a stoplight, and there stood a woman on the corner, sign in hand, and nothing but a shawl on to keep her warm. At this point it was twenty-something degrees outside, the temperature was dropping, and she had no coat. How ironic that as a church, we had just given out over 500 coats, and this lady, the very next day, had none.
I wish I could tell you that I immediately rolled down my window, ushered her into my car, drove her to a warm place to stay for the night, and gave her the coat off my back. No, that is not at all how the story went. Instead, a series of questions, which were really just excuses, began racing through my head. Excuses like, well, we’re in the other lane and there is a car between us. And, I have a young babysitter with me, and I need to be responsible with her well being. And, I don’t have any cash, what would I give her? Where is a shelter in Katy, anyway? I would give her my coat, but I left it at home. And on I drove, right past this freezing woman on such a cold, windy, dark night.
After I dropped off the babysitter, I headed home with new resolve. “Okay, Lord. I’ll go back,” I said. “I’ll do whatever you tell me to, and I will trust you to protect me. I’ll take her to a warm hotel room if I have to.” Ideas of how to help began to form in my mind as I raced back towards her. But, like opportunities do, when I made it back, she was gone. I couldn’t believe it. She was no where to be seen, and I had left her to sleep somewhere on the cold ground in freezing weather.
I gravely drove home, went into my ridiculously large closet, took off my warm boots and my warm sweater, and my heart broke. I wept, my mind replaying the image of that woman standing on the corner with the wind chilling her to the bone, with nothing but a shawl clinging to her to keep her warm. I cried because I realized I had gotten stuck in that place between desire and obedience, the place of good intentions, and it cost someone dearly. I cried because I knew how much Jesus loves that woman and how it hurt His heart that she was out in the cold that very night. I cried because I realized that my satisfaction in fitting in a few hours of mission work into my schedule wasn’t at all what God was calling me to do. Sure, it was important that we give those coats and blankets away. But, loading and sorting through hundreds of blankets, scarves, gloves, coats and socks means nothing when you drive right past a woman standing in the freezing cold. He is about people, not plans and projects.
As this new year begins to unfold and God draws my heart closer to His, I have every intention of making my good intentions turn into action. As I pray for opportunities to share the love of Christ, I desire to obey with no reluctance and without always having it all figured out. Would you join me in moving past the place of good intentions and into obedience, in which we will all bear much fruit, and change the world for Christ?