Today I was walking downtown after church. We made up sack lunches and were handing them out to my new friends on the street. I met Ike, Walter, John, James and David. They were guys most of the world passes by, I assume. They each had a story to tell and a life to be shared. It was a blessing to meet them and to be able to put names to the faces that I will more than likely see again as I walk the streets of downtown San Diego.
As I left to walk home, I saw some trash blowing down the street. I thought to myself, I should pick that up, this is someone’s home. The second thought was… eh, it’s just one piece of trash it won’t matter that much. The third thought was… it matters… and I picked up the trash.
You may be wondering why in the world I’d start to write a blog about picking up trash, it isn’t all that profound a thing to do. But it isn’t so much the picking up of the trash as the process it took me to actually pick it up. Have you ever noticed that when confronted with an injustice of some kind that the initial thought is almost always to act. And that thought is almost always met with a second thought, the reason not to act. It is at the second thought where a great decision is to be made. What will my response be?
This past week I watched three movies, “The Blind Side, ” “up” and “The Soloist.” Such great films that tell the stories of lives changed through the encounter of another. Each story was different, but in each story there was a split second that took the story from ordinary to extraordinary. That split second is what I like to call the Third Thought.
Daily each one of us have choices to make. We come face to face with another and are so wrapped up in our own worlds that we don’t take time to think through what we witness as we come across other individuals.
Like the trash today, we face the opportunity to act, to do something and so often we stop at the second thought. A few weeks back a friend was going jogging. She was training for a race and had a schedule to keep. She ran by a woman covered in a blanket and noticed two tiny feet peeking out of the other end of the blanket. First Thought: “I have to do something!” Second Thought: “I don’t have anything to give, I can’t run back home now and get something, I can’t stop, I mean what good will it do for me to stop?” The thoughts kept coming. She knew she was to do something, but got stuck in the second thought.
It is in that moment that we must recognize and listen for the third thought. The one that says, stop what you’re doing, be inconvenienced and do something!
Today I’ve thought a lot about Advent. Advent is the season we, as those who follow Jesus, celebrate in preparation for the coming of Jesus. God, became flesh and walked among us! That is a story of inconvenience. Think about it. God.. all powerful… almighty… creator of heaven and earth now confined to the form of a baby? That is what I would call highly sacrificial and very inconvenient. God became Emmanuel, God with us. And for those of us who believe and who call on the name of Jesus, we now get to carry Emmanuel with us as we walk, run, do errands, go to the store, ride in elevators and roam this earth. What then shall we do with it? Will we stay to ourselves? Will we stop at our second thought? Or will we push through to the thought that leads to action.
The invitation for me today is to act. That this advent would be a season of action. A season where my encounter with Emmanuel throws me into encounters with the lives of others that will alter our stories for the better.
I spoke with a friend on Thanksgiving about that second thought moment. We talked about moments that we’ve missed because we didn’t act. My friend the runner, she still talks about the jog where she didn’t stop. I know I have missed countless opportunities to be light and show that Emmanuel is with me and in me.
I would love to have Advent be a season of action. To be a time of training where we practice third thought action. Where we push through the doubts and hesitations of the second thought and live into making someone else’s story a little better.
So I write, I write mostly to hold myself in submission to Emmanuel. I write because my heart aches for those in the world whose stories could be altered by a loving caring God. I write because I feel as though there is something needed. I write because it was my third thought.
I pray today that you too will eyes to see the needs of others. That you’ll stop and notice expressions on faces, you’ll hear with different ears and that you’ll act! What an amazing Advent Season it will be if each of us were to act on behalf of someone else daily, not just to be nice, but because we have God present with us and in us and inviting us to represent Him to the people in our lives.
Go be inspired rent The Soloist, go see The blind Side and take a moment to know that they were just people who acted because they thought three times.