Saturday, June 29, 2013
Whom Shall I Send?
Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
Several years ago I attended a small community church with a varied group of people from different backgrounds. There was one young man who was obviously mentally challenged. Many found him a bit bothersome. He was awkward and had a hard time expressing himself. He lacked the ability to tell when he'd crossed the line in conversation or action. It made people very uncomfortable to be around him at times. Yes, even the best of the Christians in that church, and those who struggled daily as Christians just couldn't quite figure out how J fit in...
Routinely J would beg the worship leader to let him sing a song. To say that the worship leader was reluctant would be putting it mildly. Not that he was rude or mean in putting him off, but he was understandably leery of what type of performance J might choose to put on. One Sunday the pastor made it clear that whoever chose to worship in song could do so, provided they practiced the song beforehand. J eagerly came to the worship leader immediately following service that day and arranged his date, which happened to be Mother's Day. The worship leader was still unsure of just what we'd get that day but he put down J's name as the special music.
Come Mother's Day Sunday, the church was packed, because like any other holiday folks will show up to celebrate Mama. The praise team rehearsed especially long the day before, wanting to present our best. When asked about his music on Sunday morning, J stated that he'd practiced all week long and his tape was with the sound tech to put on at the appropriate time. Our worship leader's misgivings were written on his face, but J was calm and collected. Service began. Every thing went along very nicely. Then we reached the special music portion of the service.
J took his place on the stage after the worship team exited. "I just want to say a few words before my song, which I chose especially for my mom," he began. A slight groan went through the congregation regulars who were all too familiar with J.
J gave his testimony. He told of how he'd nearly drowned at 2 and had suffered some brain damage. How difficult it had been to learn the skills most people took for granted and how steadfast his mother had been, how patient and caring even when others weren't. He spoke of how difficult it had been for his father who wanted a normal son. And he told of how Christ, in his love and mercy, died for all, including someone like himself who was damaged and broken and hurt. He told how Christ had called all to be disciples. He went on to explain that we were all disciples whether we meant to be or not, when we were in stores, or at work, at home or at church and that God had blessed each of us with a method of discipleship that was unique to each of our talents if we'd only answer the call. Then he launched into song. I can't remember the song he sang that day. I know that he was perfectly on time and in key the whole song. He'd most definitely rehearsed it well.
For all that J was awkward and lacking in social niceties, he spoke eloquently and well during his testimony and performed professionally. To say that he was applauded would be an understatement. The church erupted into a standing ovation.
J didn't ask to sing again right away, but when he did he was immediately given the date he wanted. Each time he ministered to us prior to singing and each time he moved the congregation to tears with his insight. J didn't let what many saw as an obstacle stop him from being a powerful witness.
I remember another day, at our last synagogue we were told we'd have a guest speaker the next week. S is a Messianic Jew, who came to Christ as an adult. He's traveled the world, crosses the U.S. on a regular basis. His ministry has grown over the years into something of a small business. An international traveler and business and speaker...what vision does that conjure up for you? Some one who is rather polished right?
Not S. He's not sophisticated or smooth. He is a little awkward, speaks a little hesitantly due to shyness, but he has a call upon his life and he answered. His ministry consists of wearing a t-shirt design that he created and which, as he puts it, "challenges" others, especially Jews and non-Christians. That shirt of his has opened the door to many conversations across the world for himself and others to witness Christ to those who are intrigued by it. He has been responsible for changing many people's lives, as unassuming as he is.
When I'm tempted to say I have no place in discipleship, that there's no call on my life, I think of these two men who so touched me with their work. My realm is small; smaller than J's and much, much smaller than S's. At best I am a witness to a handful of people in a week's time: the clerk in the post office or grocery store, a stranger now and then, family members. It's just a kitchen sink ministry, not meant to reach a hundred or thousands perhaps but one or two. In speech I falter and my words tend to veer off pace. I require the medium of writing in order to be clear, but sometimes I'm called to speak face to face. I wonder how on earth I can be a witness when I know so little, am a bit of a ditz at times, falter so often. Yet if I learned nothing else from J and S it's that God doesn't want the perfectly smooth, sophisticated, well polished ones only to be carriers of His words. He wants those like me who are imperfect, who fail, who think they have little to offer. It's a challenge that overwhelms me at times. It's men like these who make me want to answer: And I said, here I am Lord, send me!