John clutched a scrap of paper in one hand as he gazed up at the massive skyscrapers that lined unfamiliar streets of a city far from his home. Heaving a frustrated sigh, the young man glanced down at the paper, then crumpled it in his hand before turning around to head in the opposite direction. Three blocks later, he was nowhere near his destination. Carefully, he tried to smooth out the paper he had clenched in his fist, but the sweat from his palm blurred the print on the page, making it almost undecipherable. The tall buildings disoriented him, and he lost his sense of direction. Even as he peered at the scrap of paper, John continued to walk, disregarding a red light. He barely escaped being run over as he darted across the street. After fruitless hours of searching, he shoved his little scrap of paper in a pocket. He was hopelessly lost.
Swallowing his pride, John approached an executive walking down the sidewalk. The executive skirted past the disoriented young man and continued on his way. John then spotted a group of young people not too far away, and he smiled in their direction, pulling out his note with a sheepish shrug. It was the best he could do, as he was not accustomed to the language of the land. Desperate, he managed to parse, “I am lost. Could you help me?” The group smirked as they took in John’s crumpled appearance and one girl openly giggled at his accent. One of the lads in the group suggested that John better go back to where he came from. The group stared at John until he retreated, then carried on their conversation.
John slumped on a bench nearby, holding the paper in both hands and stared intently at the words. Growing panic at being lost in a strange city brought a bead of sweat to his brow. Two older women passed by and tsked in sympathy. “That poor, poor young man, he sure does look distraught” Taking in their pitying gazes, John waved his little sheet toward them and gestured for help. “Don’t try to help him, Maude, we’d better leave him to the professionals, we’ll only get him confused. I never know what to say ….” The pair quickly scurried away, returning with a scholarly gentleman who sat beside John. With a fatherly pat on the lad’s shoulder, the scholar dumped a dictionary, a lexicon, a history book of the area and a current road map on John’s lap. “It’s all in the books; you’ll understand if you just read the chapters I have marked for you… Good luck, old boy!” With another kindly pat on the back, the scholar slipped back into the adjacent library, and the two women went on their way, well pleased with the outcome.
John opened the first book on the stack and began to read. It made no sense to him. He set the material aside as it was getting late and it was hard to see. As he shrugged his backpack on his shoulders, he accidentally brushed against a passing pedestrian, and John’s precious scrap of paper slipped away. If not for the joint efforts of that helpful pedestrian and John, the evening breeze would have carried it out of reach. Curiosity got the better of the pedestrian, and he had a brief glance at the crumpled paper before handing it back to its rightful owner. John plastered a weary smile on his face in thanks, but he did not attempt to ask for help. He had been rebuffed too many times.
Caught off guard by the sound of a clearing throat, John looked behind him. Hesitantly, his fellow pedestrian approached him, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to pry, but if you are looking for the address on that paper, you’re headed in the wrong direction. I’m down that road just about every day. Here, let me walk with you, I’ll show you the way.”
One day, God asked me a question, “Just what do you think it means to be lost?” I thought back to a Monday afternoon long ago when I found myself lost in the business district of Bangkok. I had an insufficient understanding of Thai. I could not read the road signs, and my sense of direction was sorely inadequate. Once or twice my lostness found me in potentially dangerous neighbourhoods. Kindly locals eventually steered me in the right direction. Two good Samaritans walked with me until I reached the safety of English-speaking friends.
Christians often speak of the lost. In prayer circles, we gather to pray for them. Pastors preach about the importance of finding the lost. Authors write on the best method of reaching the lost. Churches send their youth to Bible schools so they can learn how to reach the lost in far-off nations. Yet, in our ever-increasing secular society, Christianland is as foreign a land to unbelievers as Thailand was to me. The unchurched don’t know the language of our community; they don’t understand the Bible and the customs of church baffle many unbelievers.
In the same manner that kindly Thais took the time out of their day to help me, God asks His children to sacrifice their time by walking along those who are indeed lost, guiding them along their way until they reach their ultimate destination. Speak in a language they can understand, listen to their questions, set aside presumptions, don’t be condescending, and love well.
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Until Next Week
©2018 Katherine Walden
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