Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Should I Have Done?

I'm a total chicken. Allow me to explain.

Early in the evening this past Saturday, I was about to return home from running a few errands. Not without stopping by Starbucks to grab a sweet tea. (OF COURSE!) As I was pulling in to the parking lot, I was taking great care because there was a weathered-looking caucasian man in a trench coat who could have walked into my path. He didn't, and so I turned in, parked, & walked on in.

As I stood in line, I noticed that the man I noticed on the street walked in & stood in line behind me. Without trying to be too obvious, I at least noticed that this fellow probably wasn't wealthy. As I stepped to the register & placed my order, it hit me that this was a great opportunity to spontaneously pay it forward in terms of God's grace.

I looked back again to see this guy holding 2 or 3 One Dollar bills in his fist. I panicked. "Should I tell the young lady at the register that I would cover the guy behind me? Would that make a scene? Would I embarrass or offend this guy? Isn't it the right thing to do? Is it???" The moment passed, along with the opportunity.

Given my natural personality, I tend to analyze what to do or say before doing or saying it rather than doing or saying whatever and dealing with the consequences. I handicapped my decision-making ability with too much information -- "paralysis by analysis." I don't offer that as an excuse as much as I do a partial explanation for why I acted the way I did in that situation.

Another way to look at it: I choked. I can't shake that guilty feeling that I knew "good to do and (did) not do it" (James 4:17). And I think that speaks volumes.

We were just reading John 5 at a Bible Study last night, and we came across & made a big deal out of verse 6. Jesus noticed the lame man, obviously felt compassion for him, and then acted on that. It's debatable given his omniscience (and, as follows, his ability to plan out everything), but it appears that Jesus was able to show kindness spontaneously.

We saw what I did. We saw what Jesus did. What would you have done? What should I have done? What can you share with me to help me respond better in a similar moment in the future?


Lloyd said...

Great post, Phil! First off, I believe is that if you are even having this conversation with yourself, that's a positive thing. The flesh is uninterested in that sort of question at all. I think Christians face these choices daily.

A lot of our problem is not so much that we can't decide whether an action is good or bad quickly, but rather our concern for how others around us will react. Will the the people in line think I'm just showing off? Will the guy think I'm a jerk for assuming his financial status? Am I doing this to make myself feel less guilty, or do I actually care about this guy? If I help this guy, should I mention Jesus. Would that draw him closer to God or push him away? The list could continue.

Two thoughts. First, if we pray that God will direct us in these situations, I don't think He will deny the request. Second, the more often we do these type of 'good deeds,' the less concerned we are about how those around us will feel. Also, when it comes to the poor/homeless, I really like the book Under the Overpass. It helped me get an idea of how I might be more helpful and show love better in those scenarios.

Anyway, I've gotten it wrong more than I've gotten it right, but I think it's a valid question and I appreciate your post.

III said...

Wow. Thanks Lloyd!