Sheep, Goats, and Dangerous Prayers

@wilcomoore: I’ve noticed that on the way home there’s a stretch of land with sheep on one side of the road & goats on the other.

@leesill: @wilcomoore I smell a blog coming…

Actually, there wasn’t. Not originally, at least. But Lee’s tweet got me thinking about something that happened yesterday. So, congrats Lee. You’re a blog conjurer.

I’m presently preparing curriculum and worship services for a DiscipleNow at the end of the month. It’s a really exciting opportunity. We have some of our fellow Seesalt staffers coming to lead the small groups/help with a few vignettes plus my sister and brother-in-law-to-be are coming to lead musical worship.

But there is still stuff to prepare, so yesterday I went to my alma mater Furman for a bit of a writing retreat. I hoped that my college stomping grounds would stir something within me. Towards the end of my afternoon I walked into an empty Daniel Chapel, which has been a special place to me for a variety of reasons.

Prayer has never been something that comes naturally to me. But during my four years at Furman, I would often walk across campus and into that chapel when it was empty and still. In that quiet, I would talk to God out loud. I would ramble. I would ask questions. I’d beg for forgiveness and pray for courage. I learned about honest prayer in that cavernous room.

So when I saw it was empty yesterday, I walked down the slate-floored aisle and slipped into a pew on the left side. I kicked down a kneeling bench with my foot, placed my knees on the carpet padding, and just started talking to God. I don’t know why I do not do that more often.

In the midst of owning up to my crap, confessing my fears, praying for EA, Jim, my family, this DiscipleNow weekend, and the summer, I said something that I knew was going to be hard to live out. I asked that God would give me the courage to actually reach out to those in need—the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised—instead of just hoping that opportunity would present itself in my everyday life.

I love Matthew 25 and Matthew 25 scares the crap out of me. In the passage, the Son of Man separates the sheep and the goats. The separation is based on how each group treated those in need. The sheep fed the hungry, visited those in prison, healed the sick, and clothed the naked. Jesus told them that through their compassion, the sheep had done all of those things for him.

The goats did not. And I don’t think it was because they were especially heinous. Some were probably quite pious. But they didn’t notice or didn’t want to notice the suffering going on around them. They went about their business. I think many of the goats are decent people. They aren’t mean-spirited or inherently selfish, but for whatever reason they stand around and do nothing.

And if I were to take the longview of my life, I would be in that second group. Because I want to do the right thing, but I want the right thing to come to my front doorstep and present itself in an easy-to-handle way. I want to do the minimal and feel like I’m good person.

It’s easy with Matthew 25 to get bogged down in issues of salvation, heaven, hell, and those are important things. But it ultimately comes down to Jesus wants me to be proactively compassionate to those in need and, if I’m going to call myself a Christian I should want to do what Jesus wants me to do.

So I prayed that God would grant me that courage. That is a dangerous prayer, because I’m afraid and, on some days, I’m not even sure that I want to reach out to those in need. People in need are just like any other person. There are wonderful ones and ones we can’t stand. Yet we don’t get to choose which deserve help. I don’t always like that. It’s a lot easier to write blogs about how we should help the disenfranchised and reach out when it’s convenient.

So I find myself where I was driving home today: in the middle with sheep on one side and goats on the other. Fittingly, there were a lot more in the goat field than there are in the sheep field. I want to be with the sheep, but life would be a lot easier over with the goats. God help me to not opt for what is easy. And calm the fears that stem from those kinds of prayers.

What is That to You?

Storms of Nature, Storms of Soul