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PAYING ATTENTION

My plans had fallen through, and I suddenly found myself with a free day to do as I pleased. There was no lack of tasks to choose from—plenty of chores were calling my name. And yet, I sensed the Spirit whisper to me, reminding me of a friend who had been dealing with sickness in her home and had just mentioned it had been a bad couple of weeks. “Make a big pot of soup and take it to her home,” I heard Him nudge. “Don’t ask. Don’t tell her you are coming. Just show up.”

I found a five-star rated chicken noodle soup recipe online and proceeded to gather and prepare the ingredients. As I sautéed onions, diced carrots and celery, and pulled chicken off the bones, I realized I was smiling to myself, excited to do something unexpected for my friend.

Should I text her to see if she’s home? I wondered. Should I ask if I might stop by? And the answer kept coming back: “Just show up.” Show up in the moments when it might feel uncomfortable—when the house isn’t guest-ready, when the makeup is still sitting where it was left yesterday and the lights haven’t been turned on. Show up even when you don’t know how you’ll be received. Just show up.

Isn’t that what Jesus did? He came smack-dab into the middle of our mess. He came when we were not prepared and when we didn’t have things ‘just so.’ He entered a yearning humanity who were intensely aware of their need yet unable to recognize Him as the answer at first glance. He didn’t say, “Get it together so I can come and have coffee with you.” On the contrary, He essentially forced the issue of real-life relationships by catching people off guard.

SHOWING UP

Jesus met the Samaritan woman drawing water from the well, bypassing the cultural norms and meeting her in her present reality, with all its messiness and dysfunction. There was no beating around the bush when it came to Jesus. Why have small talk when you can speak clearly and poignantly?

When Jesus said to the woman, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true” (John 4:17b-18), He confronted her blatant need, yet He did so with compassion and grace. The result? A conversation that would change the course of her life forever and an account that would be told for generations to come! Jesus came to offer hope and life—living water—to all who would respond, even as He walked right into their real-time lives. No social media filters for this unconventional God-man!

In another instance, Jesus was passing through Jericho when He looked up and saw Zacchaeus perched in a tree where he had positioned himself so he could see Jesus. Luke says Zacchaeus was “small in stature,” making it next to impossible for him to glimpse Jesus over the throngs of people (Luke 19:3). In the midst of the bustling crowd, Jesus called Zacchaeus by name and told him to quickly come down. “I must stay at your house today,” He declared (Luke 19:5).

Small in stature. A not-so-loved tax collector. Zacchaeus had to be aware of his own less-than-pristine reputation, and when Jesus drew attention to him, I can only imagine the swirl of emotions that coursed through him. Again, Jesus did not attempt to be subtle or discreet. Nope. He called out to Zacchaeus in front of all those people, saying, “Come! I’m going to your house. Right now.” No time to hurry home to tidy up before this well-known teacher arrived. And everyone noticed. Even the disciples murmured their displeasure, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7).

Instead of shying away from this notorious tax collector or requiring Zacchaeus to first have all his metaphorical ducks in a row, Jesus leaned in and Zacchaeus was compelled to respond. This encounter altered the course of his life: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:9-10).

TAKING PART

Within these accounts I notice two gifts Jesus offers—not only to Zacchaeus and the Samaritan woman—but also to us! First, Jesus steps into our laundry-filled, dirty-dishes-piled, bills-to-pay world, and sits down right in the middle of all of it, offering a refreshing drink of cool water. He provides Living Water that quenches our chronic thirst, resulting from all the unfinished, unsatisfying things that surround us. He offers Himself.

Second, He offers an invitation. Jesus invites us to participate in this ‘showing-up kind of life’ He exemplified. Are we willing to lay aside our need to have it all together, in order to step into another’s unfiltered life and offer them a refreshing drink of authentic love and care? Are we willing to be intentional about listening AND responding when the Holy Spirit whispers, “Just go show up”?

Here’s the thing: Our Heavenly Father is really, really good, and He is also sovereign and omniscient. When He told me, “Go take a pot of chicken noodle soup to your friend who has had a tough couple weeks,” I could trust He had the inside scoop! And you know what? He did!

I took the hot soup, along with a fresh pan of brownies and a ready-to-bake baguette, and knocked on my friend’s door. I felt like a giddy kid, waiting with arms full, anxious to surprise my friend. She met me at the door, wrapped in her robe, weary from the headache she’d been nursing all day. As we transferred the food to the kitchen she said, “I was literally just in the process of trying to find a soup recipe to make for dinner.”

And with deep-down joy I responded, “Well, now you don’t have to!” How good is God?

As I headed out the door, my sweet tired friend said, “I hope you have a good rest of your day.”

My response? “Oh, I already have! God knew you needed this, and getting to be part of His care for you has made my day!”

What is God inviting you to participate in today? He is already at work all around us! We simply need to stay open to hear and be ready to respond. No matter how messy, no matter how silly the instruction, He knows. I’m so grateful Jesus walks right into my unfinished, un-tidy spaces and meets me with honesty and grace. The beautiful reality is that He invites us to be part of the same process in the lives of others. A pot of soup, a loaf of bread, and a pan of brownies may be all He asks. Yet, it can make a world of difference in the life of someone wondering what to make for dinner tonight!

May our prayer be to have ears to hear our Heavenly Father’s whispered invitations to participate in what He is already doing in the lives of those around us. Life-giving joy waits beyond our response. I know I desire that! Don’t you?

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