My neighbor and I were both upgraded to seats 10A and 10B. As soon as I sat down it dawned on me that this upgrade may have been more curse than blessing. Janet shared how thrilled she was to meet up with her wife in Nashville for a weekend of music and drinking. Proving how slowly I learn, I once again found myself stereotyping and tending far more toward judgement than mercy. I had met my match in talkers with the gift of gab as Janet showed no signs of slowing down.
I asked God for more grace and an opportunity to share Him with her. He’s so kind. Somehow we began talking ISIS and radical Islam (specifically how brutal they stand against gays and lesbians). Told Janet I had been to the Middle East on a few occasions but never anywhere extremely close to ISIS. She found it interesting that both they and I could call our actions the “will of God” as I explained that if I were to visit ISIS they would count severing my head from my body an act of obedience the same as I would consider laying my life down for the gospel.
This was the door that led our conversation toward why Jesus is different than every other religion, even the “religion” of Christianity. I explained relationship and intimacy. Both Janet’s brothers are pastors though she had taken a very different path. She seemed to grasp how Jesus was claiming something very different than the religious ideal of works.
I asked Janet if I could share several “prophetic” thoughts I felt God was placing on my heart. She responded with a confident “sure”. She leaned in closer to me and listened intently. I was stunned by how our conversation had started and where it currently had morphed. Once I shared my “Jesus-thoughts” I asked about pain in her right shoulder. She confirmed but then motioned to her left shoulder and shared the story of two days prior having fallen on her left side with pain at a nine out of ten on the scale.
I told Janet about the gift of words of knowledge and how sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak to me through pain I’m feeling in my own body for a healing He desires to bring about in someone else. Instructed her to place right hand on left shoulder while I laid my hand on her right shoulder. Prayed peace and commanded pain to leave. Asked her to test it out. She began moving and then looked my way with an absurd, confounded smile. “If feels like my whole left side is hot and there’s no pain at all anymore.” I laughed. Of course. Twice now, people I had marginalized, stereo-typed, even judged on the basis of outward actions, appearances or commentary were the ones Jesus seemed exceedingly willing to touch.
We hugged. Janet thanked me for a moment as profound as ours and told me how thrilled she was to share the story with her wife.
Though I may not agree with Aaron or Janet’s actions/decisions/lifestyles, I walked away apologizing to Jesus for not having looked at them first through the filter of love. Not for a second in either of these encounters did Jesus give me the impression sin was a problem He was afraid of.
All this to say, growing is both necessary and joy. Clearly, I have a long road ahead of me but as long as growth happens, I’m ecstatic at the prospect of loving more and not less.