Posted by: karanoel | November 20, 2020

The good samaritans

While on my morning walk last week, I passed a small backup at the end of the street. An elderly person in an old station wagon had stopped part-way through the intersection, with a clear intent to turn left but no follow-through. The driver behind him/her*, who was unable to move forward as a result, started honking. The white-haired person responded with some hand motions, which I took to mean that he/she now wanted to turn right and needed the trailing car to back up… but that couldn’t be done because there was yet another car in the queue. “Old person, just turn left and make a u-turn later,” I said to myself as I passed by. “You’re holding everybody up!” The other drivers, who appeared to be put out, managed to awkwardly maneuver around the offending station wagon and zip away. 

Not two minutes later, I turned around to see that the couple who had just passed me on the sidewalk – a petite woman and young-ish man – were pushing the wood-paneled station wagon up the slope through the intersection. Others quickly pulled their cars over to help and I heard their voices shouting, “Turn the wheel to the left!” “Good!” “Now put on your brakes!” As it turns out, the car had broken down and the driver was stuck there. I stood there, pierced with sadness at how grossly I’d misread the situation and humbled by the kindness of those who took the time to listen and to help.

For a moment, I wished I had been one of them instead of heaping quiet judgment as I passed. But then I wondered how that would have worked. “I couldn’t have pushed the car myself,” I thought. “And soliciting help is super uncomfortable for me. Besides, I usually just get in the way. Plus, I’ve been gone a while and should be getting home.” Before I knew it, though still heart-broken about my error, I was feeling relieved that I’d avoided the inconvenient, uncomfortable and potentially messy work of helping someone in need, happily leaving it to the others who were getting it done.

This got me thinking about something. Even though I have spent decades with a longing to adopt and have wept with heart-felt compassion for these kids, I’ve recently felt relieved that fostering (and/or adopting) didn’t work out for us. It would have been hard and messy, I’ve reasoned, and certainly not as romantic as I’d pictured. There are other considerations, too, like not putting my delicate, introverted temperament through that kind of stress, disrupting the balance of my family, or interfering with the things God has called me to do (like sitting in my pretty yard writing things). Those are certainly important considerations – ones that should be taken to the Lord in prayer – but I’m starting to wonder if I let myself off the hook a little too readily, happily leaving it to others who are getting it done, presumably way better than I could.

Maybe fostering kids isn’t what God is asking of me, though. Maybe He would be thrilled with the far less dramatic willingness to be interrupted by the opportunities that present themselves every day in my home and not too far beyond… things I walk by because of blindness, judgment or justifications (It’s inconvenient, I’m tired, it will cost me something I’m not willing to sacrifice). 

You know, I’ve always handily villanized the priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan who left a fellow Jew half-dead on the road to Jericho, passing by “on the other side.” Like they didn’t even want to get close to the mess or be accountable for what they saw. But were they really so bad? Maybe they were people who really wanted to be kind and generous, but either didn’t recognize a legitimate need when it presented itself or justified their way out of helping. It could have been that they were on their way to help someone else or thought this guy deserved what he’d gotten. Or maybe they just didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of a sticky or costly situation that others could certainly handle without them. I’m judging them a little less harshly these days. Because they sound a lot like me. 

I don’t see this as a guilt thing… what I could or should do but don’t. That never accomplishes anything. But I do see it as a stirring in my heart; something God wants to transform in me. Not just to be someone who feels pity for the downtrodden, but someone like the good Samaritan who is available to help, even when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable and costly. Not noisily honking grievances at the lost or passing by with quiet judgment, but pausing long enough to truly see the person, perceive their need and be moved with the Father’s heart of compassion for them.

After telling the story about the good Samaritan, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” “The one who had mercy on him,” was the reply. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

*As seems fitting, I didn’t get close enough to see whether it was a man or woman.

An oldie, but goodie – Keith Green, On the Road to Jericho:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0C6NtVwjLM


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