Earlier this summer my wife and kids and I joined our family and headed out on our annual trip to the Methow Valley in Eastern Washington. We take this time to relax, relax, and relax some more. I can honestly say a week with no agenda, plenty of outdoor opportunities, and lot's of food does the trick. I've never come back from this pilgrimage in the same mental state as when I left. We have a good thing going and I believe we would all agree if there was any unforeseen "anomaly" to the peace and privacy of this week it would change the whole dynamic. We are a very welcoming group and easy going, but if an unexpected guest were to show up it would certainly change the look and feel of what we are accustom to.
I don't believe our family is unique in this matter. Do you ever remember a time when you planned or attended an event with family and friends you were excited about? And do you remember that time when someone unexpected showed up? I remember it happening and I also remember my attitude in that moment. I can tell you from experience that this scenario has one of two ways it can end and it's entirely up to you whether or not you embrace or reject who God brings your way.
A few nights into our vacation the woman who owned the home we were renting came over for dinner. She lives in another home on the property and manages the rental home when she's in town. I'm not sure who put the invite out there but we found ourselves sharing a meal this particular evening...and what a fine evening it turned out to be! We ended up talking into the night and having a blast getting to know each other with story after story about our lives and adventures. I have no doubt it was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
What got me thinking about all of this in the first place was the fact that the dinner party was spontaneous with someone we had just recently met. God spoke to me after this experience and reminded me that when it comes to extending love to others it's not always convenient and it's not always planned. There are times when our routines are interrupted or people are inserted into our parties when we didn't know they were going to be there. These are the moments we get to "actively" love. Remember our love chapter 1 Corinthians 13? Here are some highlights: "love is patient", "love is kind", and "it is not rude". If only I was patient, kind, and not rude EVERY time my day didn't go as planned!
One day Jesus was passing through the town of Jericho. This account is recorded in the Gospel of Luke chapter 19. From what I can tell, Jesus had no intension of stopping or staying, but while in route a man named Zacchaeus caught his attention. Zacchaeus was up in a tree to get a vantage point above the crowds and try to catch a glimpse of Jesus to see what all the hype was about. Upon seeing him, Jesus stopped and immediately spoke to Zacchaeus and insisted upon staying at his home. This was NOT in the scheduled plan for the day and likely inconvenient for both. Zacchaeus was a hated tax collector, so Jesus immediately started taking heat for hanging out with him. On the other hand, Zacchaeus was about to have an unexpected guest along with a bunch of people traveling with him. No time to run to Costco! Although not much of the interaction is recorded, the outcome of this encounter certainly is. Spending one afternoon with the Son of God caused a massive heart change in Zacchaeus. Once a cheat and exploiter of people, he proceeds to give away half his wealth and offers to pay back four-fold any amount he's stolen.
As if this isn't enough, Jesus goes on to give us a snapshot of what the labors of loving people end up being. He tells us he came to "seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10 You see, Zacchaeus was lost. He'd compromised to the point that he didn't even recognize himself. I think that's why he wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Maybe there was a chance that this miracle worker he'd heard about could help put him back together. I can feel the desperation in Zacchaeus as he climbed that tree; tears streaming down his face wanting to be made whole again. As we love like Jesus did, and find the true meaning behind a "detour" in our day, we may just see what is lost in our lives return too.
If you read through Jesus' life and ministry on earth, you'll see he made a habit of loving people no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it was for him. One moment I believe surpasses all other examples of this is in the Garden of Gethsemane when we see Jesus ask his Father in Heaven to take the cup that has been placed before him. He is of course speaking of his eminent betrayal and death. I'm not making light of this at all when I say that there has never been a more inconvenient moment bestowed upon a person. What we learn from Jesus next we must replicate in our own lives. He put his own comfort aside, entered into the hardest experience of his life, and became love by going to the cross for us.
So next time, before you voice your opinion when you find out plans have changed, realize someone else has been invited and is going to tag along, or end up spending your day with someone you just met, CHOOSE to put on love in the face of inconvenience. You may just come out on the other side with a friend or experience that will change the course of your life forever.