A few weeks ago my daily Bible reading had me in Matthew 25. As I contemplated the ways people had served Jesus without even knowing it (“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”, verse 35) my heart was moved.
Jesus, I prayed, I want to welcome You. Are there strangers You want me to welcome? I don’t want to miss the opportunity to minister to You!
With that prayer, I closed my Bible and got ready for work. And completely forgot all about it.
Early one morning a week or so later, I received an email from a friend. She knew of a young woman who needed housing. She knew I had a spare bedroom. Would I be interested in hosting her? And oh, by the way, she would need a lot of emotional support.
Well, I’m pretty tired when I get home from work. I like my space. I like my quiet. And I don’t want to have to adjust my schedule around someone else. Not somebody who needs a lot of support, anyhow. So that decision was easy. I was crafting my response in my head as I headed to the shower. I’d tell my friend, “I really don’t think this is a good time for me. I’ll pray you find someone else.”
Does God speak to you in the shower like He does me? If so, you will not be surprised by what I say next. Completely out of the blue (it seemed) I heard a quiet little Voice ask, Do you remember what you prayed out of Matthew 25?
Hot water streamed down on me but a shiver race up my spine. Yes, of course I remembered.
Inside I thought Crud! I really need to be more careful about what I pray!
But out loud, I said “Yes, Lord, I remember. And when I welcome strangers, I may be welcoming You.” (Yes, I know that God knows my thoughts, even if I don’t say them. I’m just being honest, okay?)
Throughout the day, I prayed about my friend’s email. I asked the Lord to help me align my heart to whatever He had for me. I asked Him to help me with the fears and reservations I felt about opening my home to a stranger with heavy emotional needs. I asked Him to give me a more generous heart about giving up time, energy, and privacy. By the next morning, He had done His quiet work in me. I was open to the possibilities, and even had a sense of wonder at what special opportunity He might be offering. I asked the Lord how to proceed. I sensed Him saying I should ask questions about what the young woman needed and let her know what I could offer.
My friend and I had a good talk. She promised to get back to me with answers. When she contacted me three days later, it was to tell me that the young woman had already found a place to live. There was no need for me to host her. And though I was happy for her, I was a little disappointed for me.
Lessons learned? There are several.
- God speaks, directs, and invites through Scripture. I never would have thought about welcoming a stranger if I hadn’t been reading Matthew 25 that day.
- God takes my “Lord I’m willing to be stretched, I’m willing to be used” prayers seriously!
- God is patient with me to remind me of what I’ve prayed—even when I forget.
- Sometimes God tests me so I can see what is in my heart. He didn’t actually need me to host the young woman—but He let me see that I was willing to do so. He truly is growing my trust in Him. That encourages me!
By the way, God did still take me up on my prayer, but in a different way. During the fires last week*, a friend called. She needed to evacuate. Could she, her husband, her dog, and two cats please come to my house immediately? I was happy to have her and her husband—the dog and three cats were another story. With my two cats, it would be a veritable zoo. But I remembered Matthew 25. I remembered my prayer telling Jesus I wanted to be ready to welcome Him in whatever form He came. Smiling at the mental picture I had of Jesus with a dog and two cats, I said, “Yes, of course. Come!”
*Concerning the Colorado Springs fire, as of this morning, two people have died, 509 homes have been declared a total loss, many others have suffered heavy damage, and hundreds of people are still evacuated. However, thanks to the tireless and courageous work of firefighters and first responders, and some spectacular rains sent by God, the fire is now 85 percent contained. Thank you for praying for Colorado Springs. Please continue to pray for us. Our community is hurting.