A month ago, I sat on the OCNJ beach and watched my boys play. As I gazed out to the ocean, I was reminded of a friend, a friend who was only able to beat cancer through death. I met her standing at the very beach 6 years before. We were both standing watching our boys play in the water. We got to talking and realized that we each had 3 boys. As we talked more, we realized we were from neighboring towns. As we talked more, we realized we were in the same M.O.P.S. group and just hadn’t met yet.
Several years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat that cancer, only to later discover that cancer was back in her liver among other places. The prognosis was not good. She fought hard, but still death came. I was at the same beach, exactly 4 years after meeting her, when I received the call that she had passed away.
This year as I sat watching my boys and thinking about my friend, I was reminded of something that I never really thought about much. A couple of days before she passed, I had the strong urge to email our group of friends and set up a prayer rotation for her so that someone would be praying for her and her family every hour of the day. I knew her end was near, so I didn’t think the prayers were for healing, but rather for their peace and comfort. But, I was on vacation, and the internet connection wasn’t the best, and I often have great intentions with not so great follow through, and it didn’t happen.
As I was reminded of this, it did not come with a sense of guilt or shame or condemnation for not listening to the urge. Rather it came with a lesson. I am confident that God was at work providing comfort and peace for my friend and her family during that time, whether I set up a prayer rotation or not. But God was inviting me and our group of friends to join in with his work. And I ignored the invitation and lost out on the resulting blessing that comes with obedience.
It makes me think of Ephesians 2:10:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God created us to do Good Works. He prepared them in advance for us to do them. He orchestrated that friendship, meeting on the beach, bringing me back to the beach at the time of her passing. He prepared in advance for me to pray for her. And I missed it.
Again, I truly believe that my missing it, does not mean that God didn’t still work and provide the peace. It means that I missed out on the joy of joining in. I’m reminded of another situation in which I ignored the good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do.
About 9-11 years ago I was driving to church. As I drove down the street to get there, I passed a not very well clothed and poorly groomed older man sitting on a wall. I had the strong urge that I was supposed to pull over and invite him to church. Of course, I came up with every reason why I shouldn’t … he’s a man and my husband isn’t with me … I have my 2-year-old with me … he would think I’m crazy … he might be crazy … do I really want him at our church …
So I drove the last block to our church, parked and went in. I didn’t give the man another thought. Until, he walked in the door. God was at work in that man’s life. He was bringing him into church because there was something the man needed to hear that day. And God had invited me to join in with him. He prepared in advance for me to drive by that man and to see him. He spoke to me to invite the man to church, and I ignored it.
Despite my disobedience, God still worked in that man. The man came without an invitation from anyone in the church. He just came because he thought he should. I never saw him again. But I have no doubt, there was a reason he came that day.
God knew that I was uncomfortable talking to people I didn’t know. He knew I was uncomfortable inviting people to church. He knew that I needed encouragement in those areas. And he “tossed me a bone”. I think about how great it would have felt to have heard that urge to invite the man, to pull over, roll down the window, and actually invite him. I wouldn’t have had to drive him there, it was only a block away. And then when he walked in the door, I would have felt amazing and honored that God would choose to use me in that way.
I’m sure there are many other “good works” that I have missed out on. Like I said, I often have great intentions but don’t follow through. I’m sure also, that I’m not the only one. Who knows, perhaps God had to use a donkey to speak to Balaam because Balaam’s 2 servants missed the good works God had prepared for them 😉 (Numbers 2: 22-35)
God, help us to have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to care, and hands and feet to follow through on the Good Works you have prepared in advance for us to do. Forgive us for the times we have missed. Thank you that despite our disobedience, you still work without us and that you still call us your handiwork, your masterpiece.
Pressing on Together,
P.S. I am no theologian! These thoughts are simply that, my thoughts. I’m sure there are some that will disagree with me on my interpretation here. That’s OK with me. For me, it’s about recognizing that God wants me to join in with his work, but he will still work despite me.