James 4:17 Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t, sins.
I read this yesterday and was quite convicted. Have you ever known the good you were to do and avoided it because it involved risk, potential let down, disappointment, or simply to follow through might make you look foolish. I had been doing just that all week.
Earlier this week I read a blog posted on Donald Miller’s site by Penny Gruener. She shared of her relationship with her mom who is paranoid schizophrenic and lives on the streets. Penny went to visit her mom on Mother’s Day and gave her flowers. (There is more to the story, you’ll have to read it yourself!)
When I read this story I instantly thought of the overwhelmingly large homeless population in San Diego. I thought how Penny’s gift to her mom was a gift of love. It was not the typical gift one would bring someone on the streets. As the story lingered in my mind and heart I felt a prompting to go and buy flowers for the women who live on the streets in my neighborhood. I shrugged it off as though it was just a whimsical idea.
The next day, the idea remained heavy on my heart. I fought with it. But, how impractical is that? I mean really, the last thing a woman who lives on the streets needs is a bouquet of flowers. Wouldn’t socks come in more handy? Water even? But flowers? What good would that do? I shrugged it off as impractical.
The next day, I wrestled with the idea again, asking questions and really hoping the idea would pass in time. But it did not and soon it was Friday. I had had enough of saying no and my mind, heart and actions changed. I drove to the flower mart where I had planned on buying roses to hand out to the women. The rose selection was awful! I looked around and ended up choosing bright yellow daisies. I also purchased some pink ribbon and I left the store. From there I put together 20 bouquets of yellow daisies and tied them with pink ribbon, I put them in a canvas bag and drove to an area just a few blocks from my condo building.
I parked my car and waited. A friend and I were on the phone and I told him what I was about to do. When he asked me why I thought giving flowers to homeless women was a good idea, I responded by saying, because I love getting flowers and I want them to feel beautiful, lovely and seen, and well there is the fact I think God told me to. I prayed. Lord, would you lead me to the women who will be blessed by this gesture and that you will open doors to relationship with them.
A mother and her adult daughter walked by my car. I got out and approached them. I gave them each a bouquet of flowers, told them they were beautiful, lovely and seen. They both started sharing the events of their days with me. Jessica, who was about 25, recounted her day in court, pleading to keep her son. The court decided that she was unfit to be his primary care taker and they took away parental rights from her. She began to weep. She knew she was unfit to care for him at this point, but her love for her son was obvious. She told me I was a gift from God. I got to pray with her.
Theresa and Jessica asked if they could come with me to pass out the bouquets and I agreed. They introduced me to their friends who also lived on the street. The yellow daisies were such a bright contrast to the circumstances in which I found myself, in which the recipients found themselves. I told each woman that she was beautiful, lovely and seen and gave her the flowers. It was a very powerful time for me.
I made my way around the area with Theresa and Jessica until they brought me to the corner they called home. They gave me a chair to sit on and they took their places on the hard concrete. I quickly put the chair aside and got down on the cement with them and we told stories and laughed and a friendship was built. As I sat with my new friends one of the women to whom I’d given flowers came and found me. She was crying. She told me that God sent me to her. Just last week her favorite aunt passed away and her very favorite flower was a yellow daisy. And to think I wanted roses! God is a God of details.
Our conversation continued and I remembered another prompting I had been ignoring. It was a prompting to start a book club with women on the street. I often see them reading and thought maybe that would be a way that I could build relationship with them. Again I didn’t follow through, and there were multitudes of reasons for not doing so. But here I was on a street corner with my new friends and the opportunity was right in front of me. I asked, “do any of you like to read?” They replied with a resounding yes and I asked if they’d be interested in starting a book club. They all agreed it was a good idea. So this week I’ll go buy some books, give them to my new friends and plan our book club date.
I’m amazed by what happens when we follow through with the promptings of God. He knows what we need. He knows what others need and when we listen and respond it is powerful to see what happens.
Today I sit amazed, encouraged and hopeful. I do pray that my little offering was a conduit for the voice of God, reminding each woman that she is beautifully and wonderfully made and prayerfully she knew the breath of God, breathing dignity and grace into calloused souls.
If you know good you are to do. Stop making excuses and reasoning with it. Take a risk! Jump and tell the story.
I know I’d love to hear it.