A couple months ago, I noticed a woman taking her dog for a walk in my neighborhood. She was perhaps in her upper fifties, and not in the best of health. The dog was about a foot tall at the shoulder, weighing maybe twenty pounds.
But the striking thing was that, though I said she was taking her dog for a walk, in reality it was more as if the dog were taking her for a walk. One moment it would be charging down the sidewalk, leash taut and dragging the woman along as fast as she could run (which was not very fast because of her health; she looked as if she could easily stumble and fall). The next moment the dog would stop to sniff the base of a telephone pole, giving the woman a brief respite. Then he would take off again, the woman stumbling behind him.
My first reaction to this scene was to be somewhat judgmental. My mother is a dog trainer, and she had shown us the need for boundaries and training for our dogs. Couldn’t this woman put limits on the disrespectful behavior of her tiny dog? But quickly my perspective changed. Of course this is guesswork as I’ve only just begun to become acquainted with this woman, but I began to wonder how she might have been treated and the things she’d been told about herself, that would bring her to this point of being dragged along by her dog’s agenda.
God delights in and cares for the smallest members of His creation: He even feeds the birds of the air. They are important. But Jesus then says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26b, emphasis added)
This scene has haunted me since. Here was someone who has been made in the image of the eternal, omnipotent and majestic God of the universe. Here was someone who had been formed by the One who calls every star by name. Here she was, at the mercy of her dog’s whims, dragged along behind it when she herself could barely run.
What does this woman—and so many others in Bangor and our world, including you and me—need to know? She needs to know the God who has made her, delights in her, and claims her as a daughter of the King in Jesus. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis gives a glimpse of what this looks like:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/17/there-are-no-ordinary-people-you-have-never-talked-to-a-mere-mortal/#sthash.8sVO2sGj.dpuf)
This woman—and thousands of other men and women in Bangor and wherever we find ourselves—needs to hear the gospel. They and we (for it isn’t just “those people” who need to hear the gospel, but each of us every day: we receive before we can give) need to hear of a new center and grounding of their worth and how much they are loved in Jesus. They need to hear and tell of God’s glorious rescue plan for the lost; they need to hear of God’s love for the unlovable; they need to hear of God’s forgiveness and cleansing; they need to hear the party in heaven that takes place whenever one sinner repents; they need to hear God’s blessing spoken over them. We need to hear God’s Word to us.
This woman is so much more than she thinks she is—as we are also in God’s eyes—and in Jesus, the road is paved for her to live as a beloved and treasured daughter of the living God...the God who, with every Christian as with Israel, “will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17) We need to daily receive God’s love and delight in us because of Jesus. And we have the calling to introduce others around us to the God who delights to claim weak and broken sinners like us and them as His own beloved sons and daughters.