Sometimes one innocent question can just keep lingering.
The question came from a new neighbor. We’d met briefly, but this hot, sunny day, we found ourselves the only two in our apartment complex swimming pool.
I recall the time we met months earlier. My immediate impression – he was friendly and carried a cane. It was the first time I realized I had unconsciously adopted this belief: I more easily trust a person with a cane.
In the pool I greeted him, then asked a personal question.
“Could you tell me about your cane?”
He understood I didn’t want to know where he purchased it but, rather, why he needed it. That’s when I learned he is also a story-teller. For two hours we stood in four feet of water and talked…but mostly I listened. Some family history, but much more about religion and politics.
Yes, in this current climate, these topics are not commonly accepted. But it worked for us, even though we differed in some areas.
Perhaps because we began by my very personal question, as our conversation grew, he felt free to ask one of me.
“Can you really say you believe something if you are unwilling to act on it?”
Two days later, I’m still pondering the question.
We both agreed that time, money, physical limitations and other obstacles keep us from taking action on all our convictions. But what about those we feel most strongly? Don’t our actions prove our words true or false?
Recently I came across a journal entry I’d written five years ago. It was about a man I knew who acted on his beliefs and is changing lives. For many years Andy has traveled the hour from Eugene to the State Penitentiary in Salem to lead men in weekly Bible studies.
By his admission they have become his best friends – the ones he’d most want at his funeral. He listened, accepted, cried, and prayed with them. He’s also heard the heart-wrenching stories of how their actions – or accused actions – had affected their children.
A few years ago Andy put his words into action and began Agape Camp for children with a parent who is incarcerated. He invited friends to his home to share his vision for the children.
“I know that you, God, are on the side of victims.”
Andy told personal stories about the men, the fathers of these wounded children. Men with names. Men who have wronged society and are now paying the price. Some were wrongly accused but suffer just the same. The ones who caused the crimes now desperately in need of God’s healing love.
And many ached for the pain their children were suffering. Victims. The innocent, young lives left behind without a Dad, without the pride of an honorable heritage, without the safely of a strong guard in the midst of growing up in a sometimes scary world.
Through Andy, the Lord put skin on His side of an unjust world. He wanted me to see what “on-the-side-of” really looks like.
Andy invited us to have a part in furthering the outreach of Camp Agape. Before he led us in prayer he said: “When I spend more time in prison… I cry more.” He allowed his heart to break for what breaks God’s.
I admire Andy, his wife and the many who have joined in ministry for the victims. Andy’s truth became action. The Camp has grown to include two cities with mentoring that goes far beyond camp.
I’m challenged anew by my neighbor brave enough to ask, by Andy who courageously moved from conviction to action, and by God’s Word that says:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are
and the work you’ve been given, and then sink yourself into that.”
Galatians 6:4 MSG
It’s probably true. We can’t always add action to our convictions. But we can be still enough to recognize the Lord’s nudge to explore and sink ourselves into the work we’ve been given.
TO CONSIDER: Pause. What really matters to you? What action could you take this season of your busy life?