Two quarts of brand new motor oil are tucked behind a pillar on my front porch for Sally. She hasn’t called to collect them—and I don’t know if she will. We had a visit last Friday at the auto parts store; she needed oil for her car and had no money. Would I help her, she asked.
Would I help her? This was not my first encounter with requests for help. Thirty-plus years of ministry have taken me into all kinds of places helping people. Would I help her?
In moments like these I am reminded that life continually presents something to learn about following Jesus. These moments don’t only come at auto parts stores; they come at dinner tables, street corners, and office cubicles. I think I would define “these moments” in this way: “these moments” are what we usually call inconvenience or disagreement or conflict, but I believe they are, in reality, moments when God shows up.
Of course, I don’t really like this definition. It means that I will need to take a deep breath at street corners, pay attention non-defensibly to what is said at the dinner table, and listen—really listen—to Sally at the auto parts store. I will need to slow down and set aside my agenda for a minute or two and ask if perhaps Jesus is present in this moment.
That’s really a trick question—if you ask if Jesus is present, he will be. And it might be up to you to be Jesus in that moment. Or, surprisingly, you might actually find that Jesus was already at the dinner table or the auto parts store ahead of you!
I think that we will never fully arrive at Christian maturity. We are all in process. And I think that is really good news. Otherwise, we would either constantly feel the failure of living up to some standard of a perfectly-lived Christian life or we would become oblivious to our shortcomings. However, if in openness to ourselves and to God, we recognize that all of life is a place for growth as we mature in Jesus Christ, then perhaps we see the adventure of it all—including with Sally. She said she would call this Saturday for her oil!
Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.