During one of my spring breaks at FHU, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City with a friend of mine whose grandmother lives in Brooklyn. It was my first time, and to say I was excited would be the understatement of the century. While we were there, we got up early every morning and went to bed late every night, filling our days with all kinds of adventures. We saw two Broadway shows (Wicked and Mary Poppins), both of which completely blew my mind.
Besides all the cool stuff I got to see (like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the John Lennon memorial in Central Park, and everything Times Square has to offer), I also came face-to-face with one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
One of the things I made sure about before leaving for the trip was that I would be able to worship with the saints somewhere in the city on Sunday and Wednesday. I take Matthew 6:33 and Hebrews 10:23-26 very seriously, so I wanted to make sure I did not convey to God or anyone else that visiting NYC was more important to me than worshipping God and honoring His wishes.
On Wednesday night, we had plans to visit a small congregation that met in the preacher’s apartment. In order to get there, we had to take the subway, switching lines a few times, then a bus, and then we had to walk a few blocks and find the apartment building.
This proved more difficult than we thought, and after getting lost trying to decipher the subway system, missing our bus, getting on a different bus going the same direction but dropping us off at a different location, and walking more than a couple of blocks in effort to find the apartment building before the service was half over, I began to complain. I remember it like it was yesterday.
“You know, if we were in the South right now, none of this would be necessary because the preacher would have offered to pick us up the moment we called and asked to worship with them. Isn’t it just natural to offer a ride to two college girls alone in New York looking for a place to worship? Instead he sends us on a wild goose chase all over the city, and even when we call him and tell him we’re lost, he STILL doesn’t offer to pick us up—just gives us more directions. The very idea…”
I’m not proud to admit this, but it happened. I was frustrated.
Somehow, we found the apartment building 20 minutes late, and because the church was so small, they waited for us to arrive before beginning their Bible study. When we walked in all out of breath from hurrying down the city sidewalks to find the church, the preacher’s wife greeted us and led us to her husband who stood still and waited for us to walk over and shake his hand. He was friendly, but I noticed indignantly that he didn’t even mention anything at all about why he wouldn’t give us a ride that night.
When he began his lesson on kindness from Ephesians, my eyes welled up with tears as I noticed his hands—rapidly moving back and forth over the pages of a large book of Braille Bible lessons he had written himself. This stuffy Northern preacher that wasn’t considerate enough to jump in the car and come pick us up for church….was blind. As I realized the error of my harsh judgment on a man I’d never met, I began to feel about 3 inches tall. I had whined like a child when I saw that certain subway lines we needed were closed for repair. I whined when I saw the bus we needed in order to make it to Bible class just in time drive away just as we made it to the bus stop. I whined when I saw someone pressing the signal tape to alert the bus driver they wanted to stop at every…single…stop, putting us further and further behind schedule. I whined when I looked at the numbers on the businesses when we got off the bus and saw that we were more than 8 blocks away from our destination. I was complaining about all these things I was seeing, while he couldn’t see anything at all. How much would a man like him give to see one of the things I saw during the hour I was stressing out?
Needless to say, the kind preacher put me in my place after leading us in an awesome discussion about kindness, morality, and Christian love. Afterwards, his wife served us all apple pie, and then she and her husband insisted on walking with us several blocks to the subway station since it was dark and they wanted to see us safely back.
While walking back, a scantily clad woman was walking the opposite direction as us, and the preacher accidentally brushed shoulders with her, knocking the fast-walking woman a little off-balance. Not knowing he was blind, the woman turned around and shouted a rude insult at the kind man. Embarrassed, I thought to myself…I’m really no different from that woman. Had she known about his life, his disability, and his determination to passionately throw himself into mission work for the Lord, maybe she would feel exactly as I did at the Bible study.
Bottom line: Be very careful about what you assume about a person. You never know what that person’s story or background may include.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” –Matthew 7:1-5
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29