“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Earlier this week, I found myself in a small engine repair shop, hoping for a low repair estimate for my lawnmower. Lawnmowers, generators and other small equipment filled the two bay units of the shop, as well as the outdoor section behind the building. Alas, my lawnmower was beyond repair.
During my conversation with the owner, I asked if he had any inexpensive used lawnmowers for sale. One had come in recently, he said, but he wasn’t sure of the condition. He brought it to me, tinkered with it a little bit and said that it appeared to be fine, but that he would do a complete tune up on it if I was interested, and would have it ready the following day. Throughout our conversation, the owner’s assistant busily went about his tasks, singing and humming as he worked. I left the shop with plans to return the next day.
When I returned the following day, the tune up was complete, but some of the tires still needed to be replaced. The owner walked me through the shop to the outside area behind the building to see the lawnmower, where he gave his assistant instructions regarding the mower. I found a spot to wait while the repairs were completed.
The assistant was cheerfully working as before, quietly singing and humming in the hot sun. When he noticed that I was standing in the sun, he kindly told me that I could wait under the shade tent that was covering some of the equipment if I wanted some shade. I smiled, thanked him, and stood in the shade while he continued working.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
The assistant finished up the job he was doing, walked over to the lawnmower I was purchasing, and then bent over to examine one of the rear tires. And that’s when I noticed his shoes. He was wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, held together with black duct tape. The tops of both shoes had come apart from the soles, and his toes were visible. I stood in wonder as I gazed at this man. Here he was, happily working in the sun, concerned for my comfort, singing, smiling, and wearing duct taped shoes.
When he finished, I could barely speak, but I managed to thank him, and asked permission to walk back through the bay to the front of the store so that I could pay. He agreed, after gently cautioning me to be very careful so as not to hurt myself. I paid, and commented to the owner that his assistant was a very cheerful man. He agreed, and told me that the man has a big heart – that he feeds and cares for approximately 40 cats in the area between his home and workplace.
I have been thinking of this unselfish, compassionate man and his shoes ever since.
I don’t know his story, but I saw his heart. This compassionate man needed shoes, but he did without in order to feed those cats. He considers their needs above his own. That just floors me.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4
We live in a culture where the norm is to want the latest and greatest technology, the newer cars, the larger homes, designer clothing and everything else that catches our eye…everything that we’re told we need to be happy. We love our creature comforts. But how many of us would give up what we would consider a need to provide for someone else? What are we willing to do without, and are we willing to do it when there is no possible hope of repayment? When there is no one there to see it?
What would Jesus do? It’s not just a phrase on a bracelet or t-shirt, it’s a real question. What would Jesus do?
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:34-40
I don’t think we set out to be self-absorbed, selfish or ungrateful people. I think sometimes life just happens, and we trudge through it, hoping for the best, expecting the worst, and treating ourselves along the way to bring a temporary measure of satisfaction to what can sometimes seem like a very unsatisfying existence. We’re told that this life is all there is, so we might as well get the most out of it that we can, because you only go around once, you know. We’re told that if there’s a God at all, He just wants us to be happy. But what happens when your idea of happy conflicts with my idea of happy? Whose happy wins?
Throughout my life, I have heard people say that no matter what happens, we should thank God for it. I don’t understand that thinking. Thank You, God, for this sickness? Thank You, God, that I lost my job? Thank You, God, that my family is in disarray? No! Emphatically NO!
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
We can lose jobs, homes, even people, but that verse doesn’t mean that it’s good, that we should give thanks for it. The meaning has been twisted. The verse says to give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. His will is that we be thankful in the midst of hardship, pain and suffering. We can be thankful that He is working all things together for our good. All things aren’t good, but all things work together for our good.
“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.” Psalm 33:20-22
If you are going through a tough time, or find yourself being less than compassionate with those around you, may I encourage you to change your focus? We can choose to focus on the Savior who gives us life. We can choose to focus on others instead of ourselves. We can step out of our comfort zones and be the answer to someone’s prayer.
Reasons to be thankful are all around us if we just open our eyes. Sometimes the Lord will even bring people across our path with duct taped shoes to remind us of this.
God our Father, Jesus our Savior, Holy Spirit our Comforter – they are all the reason we need to rejoice.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.’” Luke 1:46-55