Each week, I take a morning to get away from the church office, and do some study/work off-site. Not only does this help keep my mind on what I'm doing (less things to grab at my "work" attention), but it gets me out of the walls of the church and interacting with people.
One of my favorite places to study is at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore. They have a second floor "loft" area that is filled with books, free wi-fi, and tables and chairs to read/type. I am a people watcher, so I usually have to position myself in a way that I can stay focused on what I am doing without hiding.... hope that makes sense. However, even in college, I seem to do my best studying when I am in a more public place with "life noises" going on around me. I often find myself sharing a study table with other people. God has granted some great discussions with people during these times.
Today is my study day. When I arrived, all of my "favorite" spots to study were taken. I did find a table in a different part of the loft, but in a much more "public" area of the store, near the escalators. I always wonder if God sits in amusement as He arranges things that are "out of our norm" like this for me. Today, I cannot help but notice the faces of those around me. A young lady fighting sleep, trying to stay focused on some sort of novel she is reading. An older oriental lady sipping coffee in a big overstuffed chair. A tall, lanky african-american man with his hood pulled up, hunched over a book that he is obviously enthralled with. There are store workers busily stocking shelves, talking with customers, and pushing carts about. However, in the midst of all of this, there is one face that sticks out for some reason.
There is a lady of some type of Indian descent sitting in a large, overstuffed chair across the landing from me. Dressed in warm clothing with a wooden chair pulled up next to where she is sitting, like a makeshift side table to hold her coffee, breakfast, and several books. This lady obviously is struggling today. Not sure if she is suffering from extreme allergies (which is possible since it's Cedar-fever season in Austin), or if she has some type of cold. She has been here the entire time that I have been sitting here working, going through handkerchiefs, trying to read, but sleeping upright in her chair most of the time. She is small of stature, and probably in her late 30's. Just a guess. Now, before you think I'm sitting here creeping on people...I am only giving this description because of what God keeps telling me through this strangers... I LOVE these people... I LOVE them as much as I LOVE you! These people NEED me!
As I type this, a young, asian man in a backwards ball cap just walked by. I see college students that look like they just got out of bed, browsing through the stacks of books. An older balding man in a red sweater sipping on a water bottle, young moms with toddlers jumping about, they are all here. It is astounding to be reminded of nearly every type of culture and age group in the world while sitting in a bookstore in Texas.
These faces HAUNT me... I find myself feeling this way more and more when I am out in public. I was in Prague a few days ago, and there were times that I felt overwhelmed by the fact that there were thousands of people swirling around me that knew nothing about the love of Jesus. I was surrounded by a LOT of church imagery (statues, cathedrals, etc.), but that imagery was commonplace to the people who live there...they did not grasp the reality of that imagery.
How do we handle these thoughts, as Christians? Jesus gave us to the task of taking His message to the world in Matthew 28. That seems like an insurmountable task... In a world of over 7,000,000,000 people, there are only about 5000 Baptist missionaries on the field. That is ONE missionary for every 1.4 MILLION people! Obviously, we cannot leave this task to them alone.
These faces SHOULD haunt every single one of us. The people of this world can hear the truth of who Jesus is through our (our...meaning the followers of Jesus) interaction with them. We must be intentional in how we live, in putting ourselves out there to interact with people in this world. Our neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers in public. We must show them Jesus in a REAL way...not the crazy guy on the street corner with a bullhorn method...but through our own story.
While deep into my "blog writing," I hear a large crash below on the first floor. An older lady has knocked over a large stack of boxes near a sales display. As she struggled to pick up her mess, I saw a young lady approaching her area, obviously headed to the coffee shop downstairs. I wondered if she would pause to help, or whether she would just keep walking. I smiled as I saw her stop, and help that lady pick up the boxes. THAT is where Heaven scratches the pavement. I do not know if that young lady knows Jesus, but I saw a glimpse of Jesus in that moment. May I be that glimpse to someone today.