Powerful words, aren’t they?

“I made a mistake.”

“You may be right.”

“I’m sorry.”

I’m so grateful God is patient with me. One of my favorite verses is 1 Timothy 1:16 – “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

And that may sound strange. Because by the world’s standards, I’m doing a pretty decent job. No felonies. No firings. So how can I consider myself the “worst of sinners” like Paul did when he was talking to his young disciple? But when in your life you keep doing things or thinking things that you know are not God’s best for you – judging, grumbling, griping, choosing to remain detached when I know I should engage.. when you keep doing these things and you know he still loves you… when you keep failing and he’s still there for you… you sense God’s mercy in a whole new way.

Yesterday, a woman burst through the doors of our church breathlessly seeking assistance with an empty gas tank. From experience, I know the thing we ask for is not necessarily the thing we need. And 99.9% of the time, someone else would have handled the question following the outreach guidelines I helped set up as we partner with agencies but offer no cash or other direct emergency services.

But this day, the lobby was full of other people with needs. And this woman was looking right at me. And I must have panicked or something because the first thing I did was meet the need she said she had. We stopped others who overheard from giving her cash – because we don’t want to create a security risk for our friends at the front desk. But she said she was in a hurry, late to pick up her daughter from school in a nearby town. So I prayed with the woman. I invited her to church. And I gave her a Walmart gift card.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re faced with someone’s immediate need we want to help? But then sometimes even when we do we’re left not with a feeling of joy, but somehow a feeling of sadness and discomfort? Oswald Chambers scolds us for this behavior calling us “amateur providences.”

I made a mistake. This woman didn’t need cash. She needed a relationship. And I don’t even remember her name. I’m grateful that Jesus does know her name. And I’ll continue lifting her up to him. Because I know he’s the only one who can supply her real needs.

And in case you’re wondering what happened next?

The woman (who I hope comes back so I can ask her to church again) must have alerted her entire family and friends to be a part of free Walmart gift card day. Two more people came. And then a fourth. All with similar stories.

We shut down the drive-through. We want to be about relationships. Not handouts. If you have an immediate physical need, we have friends who can help – Crisis Assistance Ministry, Matthews Help Center, Second Harvest Food Bank, and more. And if you want a relationship with Jesus – who is the only one who can ever supply all your needs – our doors are always open.

Thank you, Jesus for your patience with me. I know the truth, and I still mess up all the time. Thank you for daily lifting me out of the pit I’ve created for myself and calling me blessed, loved, and adored. Help me to be more like you today. Help me to BE the kind of grace you daily give to me. Amen.