Olly Olly Oxen Free: What if God Will Use Anyone!?
My friend Amy* shared this on Facebook yesterday,
“I became a Christian just after midnight on my 22nd birthday, the summer after I graduated from college, selling books door to door in Emporia, Kansas. It was nighttime and a man was following me in his car so I sought refuge in the home of a family who happened to be in the midst of a prayer meeting. And well, the rest is history.
Except for the fact that the people in the prayer meeting were part of an established cult that had overtaken the local seminary, now empty. And their stake in my conversion was a mercenary one, since their recruits went door to door as well, something I was already good at.
Even so, God didn’t seem to care about the cult or my messy entrance and was pleased, I think, to have used such clever means to make my acquaintance. That’s my testimony: Saved by a cult, thanks to a stalker.”
I read it and said to myself, “Yep, that’s precisely how I think God operates.”
Lost in the mall
Imagine that you’re Christmas shopping with your kids and your worst nightmare comes true. You get distracted for a brief moment and one of them disappears. She just vanishes.
At first you begin looking around where you saw her last, and the longer you look, the more you can feel your anxiety rising. Soon you begin quietly calling her name, and then your volume begins to rise and your tone gets more strident. You can feel yourself on the verge of a complete meltdown.
Have you ever visited a mall Santa?
People are noticing what’s going on and they’re coming and asking you questions about what she looks like, what she was wearing, when you saw her last. They want to help you find her.
Now here’s my question: Whose help do you want? Whose help are you willing to accept?
Are you going to start interviewing these good Samaritans? I mean, you don’t want the wrong person out looking for your daughter, right? You might want to ask them important questions like:
- What kind of success have you had finding lost children in the past?
- Do you believe that once a child is found they can be lost again, or are they once found-always found?
- What do you think happens to children when they’re not found? Do they end up in the boiler room forever?
- Do you think the mall’s floor map is 100% accurate or could there be some inconsistencies?
- Have you ever been lost in the mall? If so, on what date where you found? Who found you, and what do they think about the above questions?
- What do you think is the best method for finding lost children? Do you go to them or try to create an attractive atmosphere so they’ll come to you?
- If you find my daughter, what is your plan to help her become a finder of lost children?
- How will my daughter be found? Is she found because I choose to find her or because she chooses to be found?
- Have you ever visited a mall Santa?
Of course you wouldn’t ask those questions. If you couldn’t find your child, you would gladly accept anyone’s help. Why do we assume that God is different?
God of the willing
Amy’s story spoke to me because I think it happens more often than we would like to believe. God reaches out and uses people who are enthusiastically available—even when we believe they fall on the short end of the truth spectrum.
I’ve heard people so many times say something like, “I don’t have a problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses [You’re welcome to substitute this group for your cult du jour], but I would probably draw the line at joining with them in a ministry to the homeless.”
There might be a million reasons:
- I don’t want other people to think I condone their belief system
- I don’t want them to think I condone their beliefs
- I don’t want people to associate our group with theirs
- I don’t want to confuse the people we’re helping and possibly lead them in the wrong direction
It makes me wonder how God feels. If there is a rightness spectrum, how correct do you have to be for God to use you? 100%? 80%? 60%? 30%? How does any one of us really know where we stand on that spectrum? Honestly.
I know that everyone feels that they’re closer to the goal than others, but let’s be honest. God is using the willing and misinformed all the time—even when he’s using us.
Maybe it’s time to join the search?
It would frustrate me as a anxious father looking for his lost child if I heard people saying things like:
- “I’d like to help, but I’m just not ready. I need to spend more time familiarizing myself with this map of the mall before I feel like I can be helpful.”
- “It’s unfortunate that you lost your daughter, but I am not going to subject myself to looking for her with those people.”
- “I don’t know what I’d say to her if I found her.”
If my friend Amy can discover a vibrant relationship with God under such inauspicious circumstances, maybe we can all lighten up a little bit. I’m not saying that theology or biblical knowledge doesn’t matter. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I care about those issues. I’m just saying that maybe those things don’t have to be the reason we are so willing to discount others or put up walls around how and when God is allowed to work.
Maybe, just maybe, we can join his adventure and leave a lot of the divisive specifics up to him. It is his church after all.
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