Right in the middle of my pastor’s Sunday morning message on ‘Battlefield of the Mind’, a young child began to cry loudly. A few moments went by and the child continued to cry. Probably realizing that the cries were distracting others from hearing and concentrating on the message, a lady (presumably the child’s mother) began to walk the child out of the sanctuary as the pastor continued his teaching. The further mother and child walked, the louder the child hollered while digging his hills into the carpet against her leading.
The best the child could do was slow, but not stop her progress. So, the child employed a new tactic; he dropped to the floor and further demonstrated his defiance. The mother reached down and picked the child up; that’s when he really cut loose. He writhed in her arms while flailing his legs, then belted out an ear-piercing scream so loud that it filled every corner of that 10,000 seat auditorium
The Battle of the Mind
As the child’s wails faded beyond the doors leading out to the foyer, my pastor seized the moment to illustrated how the congregation the lost the battle of the mind as we allowed out attention to be diverted from the weighty and essential matter of God’s word to thoughts sped away on the nonproductive antics of the child.
While I agree in principle with my pastor’s assessment, I personally learned a very important and timely lesson from the child.
The previous week, I painted en plein air across from a quaint restaurant where I have eaten in the past. On that day, I met a kind lady from Iran. We shared interest in watercolor painting, but more importantly, I shared the gospel with her.
After she departed and I finished the painting, I was compelled to go paint across from the Castle Green, a hotel located approximately a half a mile from the restaurant. However, instead of going to the hotel location, I went home.
This past Saturday, I knew I was to paint the hotel, believing that I would meet someone there who needed to hear about Jesus. I also knew that I had to go if I was to please God.
God Answers Prayer
When I awoke that morning, I went to my studio and looked out the window. The sky was overcast and gray. The day was gloomy (in my mind). The previous day the weather service had predicted rain, so I confirmed it with my wife, “Yes, rain was in the forecast,” she said. Little did she know that I had made her a coconspirator in my attempt to shirk my responsibility.
“Surely God didn’t expect me to stand out in the rain to proclaim Jesus as I painted en plein air. I would be ridiculed by the passers-by as a nut instead of respected as a man of God,” I thought to myself.
I bumped around the house for another 20 or 30 minutes, but couldn’t shake the urge to go out.
I went back to my studio. This time I swung the door open to get a better look at the dreary day. The sky remained overcast…except for a hole in the clouds where the sun was shining through brightly. I stepped out the door into the warmth of the sun. I knew God wasn’t about to let me out of my mission, so I threw my art supplies in my car and headed off to the hotel.
I pitched my easel on the sidewalk where I was supposed to be and began to paint.
Most of the people who walked by did not even look my way, nor did they seem to acknowledge my presence. “That’s typical for this part of town,” I said to myself. Of those few people who did smile politely as they passed by, I made no effort to hand them a ‘Talent Search’ tract, nor attempt to engage them in a conversation; and I certainly didn’t part my lips to mention the name of Jesus.
“God, You’re just going to have to bring someone directly to me today, someone who I will know has been sent by you,” I said with my spiritual heels dug into the concrete.
No sooner had I said those words when my Iranian acquaintance from last week suddenly stepped up to my easel. I’m sure she saw the surprise in my eyes. I asked her if she had painted since I last saw her. She hadn’t. I then asked about the young child she was again pushing in the stroller; he was her sister’s grandson. She said that her sister used to own a shop in the hotel. She also said that there still existed (though no longer in use) an underground passage from the spot where were standing which lead to the Castle green across the street.
No Mention of His Name
We chatted for a few minutes longer, then said farewell as we had the previous week; except for one difference…this time I made no mention of Jesus.
I completed the painting and loaded my supplies back into my car. I stopped to paint at another location on my way home, but there seemed to be no anointing on my efforts to minister to the two people who stopped by.
This Sunday morning I saw myself in that child who was being taken where he didn’t choose to go. Chances are, no one who passed me on the streets heard my screams or saw my defiance, but I know God heard and saw loud and clear.
“Lord forgive me.”
And yet I cry to the Lord, “Here am I; send me.”