The first weekend of my freshman year of college (seven years ago and counting), I sat in our auditorium to hear a dude named Chuck Quinley. Chuck was a missionary from the Philippines. He specifically focused on church planting and leadership development. Three things I remember about the guy: he was bald, he was introverted, and he opened with the most heart-wrenching story I’ve ever heard.
A few years later, a mentor of mine gave me a copy of Chuck’s book, I Want To Bear Fruit. And, to my luck, the first chapter had that heart-wrenching story. So this is taken directly from chapter 1 of Chuck’s book:
“Imagine that you were the wealthiest and most powerful person on the earth. Fortunately for everyone, you also have the most loving heart. You are determined to use your resources to be a blessing to others. So every morning you leave the comfort of your majestic home and take your place in a chair, accessible to others who need your assistance. Everyday the line stretches to the horizon, with hundreds upon hundreds lining up to speak to you about their needs.
Their needs are rather repetitious. Most have material needs. They need money or more money, a better job or a home of their own. Some want a car. Some have extravagant requests. They want airplanes, boats and second homes. Everyone feels that they really need everything they ask for and are instantly disappointed if they don't get what they came for.
Some have non-material needs. They need an education or an opportunity. They have some great goal and just want the chance to reach it. A few asked to be noticed by the talent scouts or their bosses when promotion time comes. Others ask for marriage partners or for you to fix a relational difficulty. Many have health problems - cancer, vision problems, deafness. They desperately want to be healed. Day by day they come and make petitions. You do everything in your power to help them all. You don't want anyone to be overlooked.
But wealthy as you are, you have a burden of your own. The greatest tragedy imaginable has struck you. Your children are missing. You love them more than life itself. You have rejoiced over every movement of their lives from birth. Now, they are missing and it's all you can think about. If they are only lost you could put out a manhunt, but it's worse than that. Your precious children have been lured away from your bosom and taken captive, kidnapped not just by a group after money, but by your mortal enemy, a person who hates you with every breath. He cannot hurt you directly because of your immense advantage. So, he has crafted a plan to hurt you by hunting those you love and would gladly die for.
Your children's fate is predictable. They will be abused constantly. Their promising lives will become a long ordeal of pain and woe. They will not know kindness. Their every mistake will hold up to them until their little hearts are bruised and filled with conflicting longings and accusations. They will be humiliated alone and in front of others. They will grow to hate their lives They will cry in the night and will ache in the day, longing for something, but not knowing exactly what because they will not remember their loving Father after a while. They will be raised as the children of the enemy. He will form their self-image and twist them to cause as much damage as possible. All this, to demonstrate his contempt for you. You will never see your children again unless someone helps you find them.
The absolutely astonishing thing is that most of the people in line know all about this. They know that your children are lost to you and may even have seen them in their neighborhood, school or in the office where they work. Still, they come with shopping list in hand. Some returning to the line day after day for more, unmoved and unmindful of the heavy weight of grief you are silently carrying. Your sense of duty compels you and so you take your place regardless, trying to forgive them their callous selfishness in the sight of your private pain. You continue to help them with their own lives while yours is in such torment. How would you feel?
I think that's where God is today. We all look to Him as the Big Answer Man. We take to Him our every request, making each one "Urgent!" We ask for things we need and many other things that we'd be better off without. When he doesn't answer the way we think He should, we get discouraged and sometimes pout. "I've been passed over for promotion three time now. Doesn't God care?"
Yes, we know about His children. We see their pain-filled lives daily. The devil has them blinded and chained so tightly that they can never free themselves. We resent having to work beside them or having them move next door. We don't need their problems. We step over them like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, hurrying to go to church to present our latest list to God. We are so caught up in our own little, passing worlds that we do not often stop to contemplate God's world. He's a person too. He has a heart that feels joy and pain just like we do. Over the lost he has unending pain.
Imagine that one day some young man in the asking line begins to looks at your face and tunes into you. He begins to feel the burden that has caused those creases on your forehead and the bags under your eyes. Taking a farewell look at his shopping list, he crumples it up and puts it in his pocket. Then he breaks out of line and comes to the front, causing quite a stir with the others. He walks up, takes you by the hand, looks you in the eyes and says, "I want to help you find your lost children. I have things I want and need too, but they are nothing compared to what is crushing your heart today. What can I do to help you find them and get them safely back home in your arms?”
Wow. Reading over this story again reminds me how real it was seven years ago (and counting). Astounding!
This is it. The realization that there are people in the darkness, and we can help set them free. Or we could continue living our Christian lives and reading our prayer requests to God.
Did God just speak? What did he say to you?