“And then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Recently, this verse came alive to me in a new way and its importance resonated with me more deeply. Usually my focus in ministry and life is on the people in front of me, never really thinking of the observers.
We recently stayed at our awesome friend Ariah’s place in Salem, Oregon. It was a laughter filled few days and truly a blessing getting to know her community. During our stay, we decided to make the trek up to Portland.
If you go to there, two things you must check out are Powell’s City of Books and Voodoo donuts. Powell’s is amazing and I believe the largest independently owned bookstore in the United States. Once we had our fill of glorious wordage, we headed to the apostate donut shop to see what the hype was all about. With a name like Voodoo, I was expecting some pretty crazy donuts with a super hipster vibe. It was more a hole in the wall place, which can be hipster I guess. Voodoo checked out in both areas, so full marks!
On the way to get the donuts, I noticed there was a significant homeless population. Seeing all the people in need, I asked God what I should do. I always want to be sure my actions are loving, not enabling. Compassion often can come off as pity, which is degrading, and is not something I ever want to do. With this in mind, I was taken aback when God wanted me to buy a dozen donuts to handout. As soon as I bought the donuts, I made a beeline to the group of homeless across the street. They were appreciative for the donuts and opened up about their situations. It was great getting to meet them, talk about Jesus, and pray for them.
I walked back to Voodoo and a very excited woman came up to me. Her name is Ashton; she and her friend, Nova, are from Canada and are on a road trip themselves. At first, I thought she was running towards me for a passionate embrace. Turns out, she was deeply moved by seeing the way I engaged the homeless and the joy-filled smiles that adorned our faces. The whole encounter made her super stoked on life. This opened the door to an awesome twenty-minute conversation about life and Jesus – the reason I do anything.
Meeting these two women, God showed me the importance of the unseen effect of our actions. He used the whole encounter to press upon me the need of picking up my cross daily. The unnoticed person is just as important as the one you may be directly ministering to. We never know how someone passing by or a quiet observer will be affected by our actions of love. Whether you notice it or not, your life is the lens people see God through. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”