Finding Wisdom in Unexpected People
(Listed under Contemplations)
08 Jun 2014 (modified 20 Mar 2019)
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A recent discussion in LinkedIn’s ‘Books and Authors’ group raised questions about the proliferation of books and blogs, some of which are by people of very limited literary ability; and it got me reminiscing about someone I met many years ago…
I was an A-level Biology student aiming for a scientific career and, frankly, I was an intellectual snob. But about 2 years previously, through witnessing the power of God at work through miracles of healing, I had become a Christian. Hungry for reality, and finding little appetite for the miraculous amongst our local churches, I had recently begun attending a church in the back streets of a nearby town. They had a very simple attitude to Biblical interpretation, which I struggled with at times: but there was no doubting the genuineness of their faith and love, nor of the miracles of healing that occurred through their ministry. So I stayed, kept quiet about my intellectual questions, lest I cause my ‘weaker’ brethren to stumble, and gradually grew to really appreciate them all.
In those days, one of the stock jokes of the magazine and newspaper cartoonists was the old man with a hole in his pants and wearing a sandwich board proclaiming, ‘The End is in Sight,’ or variations on this theme. It seemed to me that anyone who did such things needed his head examining.
Well, Stan was one of them. An elderly pensioner, he seemed to spend most of his time parading around central London with his sandwich board, handing out tracts. I might have forgiven him even that: but it seemed to me that he was incapable of differentiating between the people in the church and those he met in Leicester square. Every time we came face to face, he would launch into a mini-sermon. I soon learned to keep at least one other person between him and me.
But Jesus’ command to, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ is uncompromising; and I finally had to go to God in prayer and admit that here was someone with whom I had a real ‘bad attitude’ problem. His answer was equally uncompromising: “Start getting to know him better.”
So I tried. And I quickly discovered that, not only did he launch into a mini-sermon each time I approached him – it was the same sermon every time! “The problem with Adam in the garden of Eden was that he didn’t really want God’s company. Do you want God’s company? …”
It wasn’t very long before I was praying about Stan again. “Lord, he’s a kindly old man: but he’s like a stuck record and it’s driving me mad. Please can you change the record?!”
God’s response this time took me by surprise. “I’ll change the record when you start listening to what he’s saying.”
In the 40 years that I have been a Christian since then, Stan’s little mini-sermon remains one of the greatest pearls of wisdom I have ever learned. The crux of the issue: God wants your company: but he won’t force Himself. You can have just as much of Him as you really want.
And, yes, God did change the record; and our relationship developed into one of genuine appreciation and respect. I can still remember the gentle twinkle in his eyes as he talked, in his very simple way, about sharing the love of God with others.
Stanley Kaye, I salute you.