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The Green Light

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Luke 10:43-45)

There was a time in my life when I was just plain angry. Life was cruel as only a middle-class, well fed, highly educated, well-traveled white boy in a posh, white-bread-community can understand. And on a particular day I vented my anger toward God. I said that I wasn’t even sure that I believed he was there. I really did want to know, though, so I said, “If you are there, I want to know. So, you have the green light to do whatever you need to do in order to get my attention.” I didn’t really expect much from this prayer and I certainly didn’t expect the personality behind the universe to usher in a whole new level of uncomfortable into my life. But that’s what happened. 

It started the next day when I was walking down one of the many hallways in the school after all of the students had left. On my way to my classroom I passed some trash on the floor. Odd that I should notice it and even more unsettling when I felt a strong voice telling me to go pick it up. “No! I’m not picking that up. It’s not mine!” Yet it spoke still stronger! “Why should I? I didn’t throw it on the ground!” But no matter how hard I argued the voice was unrelenting. I finally succumbed and walked back the 50 feet to pick up the trash and put it in the trash can. 

Now, some 19 years later, that voice is still with me and at its insistence I have more than once cleaned out clogged urinals and picked up trashed bathrooms. I have given ice cold Gatorade to road crews on sweltering days and tipped trashmen, cart pushers and postal workers. I don’t tell you these things to toot my own horn; that’s not the point. I really can’t take credit for any of it. 

I tell you these things because they reveal the heart of the Lord. God’s spirit in me sees these people. He knows them and loves them. He is concerned about them. And because He sees, I see. And as I follow his leading in serving the least of these, I find I am somehow more whole. I have more peace and love in my heart. I am more ready to listen and love, to apologize and forgive. It is as if by participating in God’s reconciling work I am being reconciled and that is a win-win. 

Still and regrettably, all these years later, I remain in many respects that selfish, over privileged white boy. But now, were someone to ask why I would bother picking out a piece of chewed gum from a urinal in some random bathroom my response would be, “so that whoever the unfortunate one is who has to clean this bathroom to feed his family doesn’t have to deal with this mess today and maybe that’ll make his day just a little bit better, and maybe he will grow to know the love of the Lord that much more.” And this makes me smile because I know that the Lord is still at work in me and in the world.

Rob Schmidt, pastor of worship and arts