People fascinate me. I confess I am a people watcher. The scientist in me looks at people and wonders how 7 billion of us can be on the planet today, yet we are all so very unique, right down to our DNA. Our bus was a microcosm of diversity;
all sizes, shapes, hues of color, ethnicity, and manner of speech. As we sat there on our 40 minute ride with multiple stops and I watched people get on and off, I saw kindness, I saw agitation, I saw worry, I saw confusion, I saw contentment. I saw people with a story. We all have a story. A story that shapes who we are, and who we are becoming.
It is much too easy to pass judgement on those vastly different from ourselves.
You will see just about everything on the crowded streets of New York City. The young girl from Montana that I was with, certainly got big eyes at some of the people we observed. We talked about instead of passing judgment, what if we thought compassionately and our first thought was not, "Well, that's weird", but I wonder what their story is?
We went to church Sunday morning, and the group there was very diverse also.
A congregation of about 100 made up of different tribes, tongues and nations.
I soaked it in. Being from a state of very little diversity, I loved hearing a prayer in an Indian dialect, African dialect, and yes a Brooklyn dialect. I wanted to know their story. How did you come to know Christ?
On our last night there, I observed a young girl perhaps in her early twenties sitting on the ground, in the middle of crowds of people in Times Square with a cup in front of her and a sign that read, 'in need of a little kindness'. In the middle of all the diversity surrounding us, when I looked at her, I saw myself. She looked like a younger version of me. She looked like she could have been my daughter. I wanted to do more than put a few coins in her cup. I wanted to sit down beside her and ask her what is your story. How did you come to this? But I didn't. Though I am home now, I can still see her face. I hope God will remind me of her often and that I will pray for her. I will pray that her past or even her present will not be what determines her future. I pray there is someone who will stop and sit down beside her and ask her what her story is. And I pray she will have an open, honest, searching heart to be able to accept the only One who can help her change her story, face her past, and look into a future that He has prepared for her.
It may seem odd, but I am reminded of a line from the Lion King, the Broadway play we saw, while we were there. Simba, the young lion, is running from his past, from his story, and Rafiki, the monkey, is trying to help him see that the past is just that, the past. Rafiki smacks Simba in the head with his stick, and Simba says," Oww, hey, what did you do that for?" Rafiki replies, "It doesn't matter, it's in the past".
We all have a story. We all have a past. But our past does not have to determine our future. The way we were raised, or the injustices we experienced, or the injustices we committed do NOT have to be our only story. The apostle Paul had a past, a past he was not proud of, but he says, in Philippians 3: 13-14
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (emphasis mine)
There is ONE and only ONE who can put the exclamation mark on our story, the triumphant twist to our life stories plot line, and it is Jesus Christ. Only ONE who gave His lifeblood so that our story can be one of hope and change. And He gave His life for all people, for the diversity of all humanity.
Revelation 5: 9b-10, "for He was slain, and did purchase for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation". And He has made them to be a kingdom, and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.
So many diverse people, so many stories, all meant to be interwoven into one Kingdom. A kingdom with a King who takes our past, and our present and weaves it into one glorious future.
There is no greater kindness. And I pray the young girl on the street corner realizes that soon. I am sorry I did not stop, but I will do my best to remember you in my prayers.