Things donít always pan out the way that we expect! A while ago, Joe and I took on the responsibility of looking after two children, Patrick and Shannon, while their mum was in hospital. Shona had been sectioned under the mental health act to remain in hospital for 28 days. We realised that it might take longer than that for her to recover. The last time, last summer, 28 days turned out to be 32 days. This time we have reached day 50, the children are still with us and mum at times seems no closer to going home. Lights at the end of the tunnel seem to get snuffed out and the children get emotional and weepy. I have to admit that I sometimes wish I had not got involved. It is not easy balancing a fairly stressful job with trying to meet the needs of two young children. The fact is I am involved and becoming uninvolved, by piling the children on to the social workers and into the state foster care system, is not an option.
I was feeling distinctly sorry for myself this morning. The burden of looking after Shona and her family seemed to have fallen squarely on my shoulders, and was weighing me down. In my quiet time, God simply said to me, ďYou are the friend at midnight.Ē
Lukeís gospel illustrates Jesusí teaching on prayer through an example of a man turning up on the doorstep of a friend, late at night, looking for bread to feed unexpected visitors. The New Living Translation adds couple of words to the end of a sentence that other versions miss out. The friend is in bed. The house is locked up. Everyone is asleep and the friend says he canít help ďthis timeĒ. It made me think that the friend had been in this position before and had come up with the goods the last time round. He had given the loaves of bread the last time, and perhaps the time before that, and the time before that.
There are just some people that come back time and again in need, sometimes with the same need. They havenít learnt to keep an extra loaf or two in the freezer for such a time. Other people become their friend at midnight because they have the resources and they have met the need in the past.
As the ďfriend at midnightĒ, I donít want to help on the basis that I am being worn down by someoneís persistent knocking. I donít want to shout out of the window that I am sleeping and the house is locked up and I donít want to be inconvenienced. I donít want to remind someone that I helped last time and this time they should get their act together and if their visitor went hungry that would teach them a lesson about being prepared.
I want to help because I am their friend. I want to help because I have the resources they obviously donít have. I want to help because they trusted me to ask. I want to help because I care.
Life throws unexpected challenges into the paths of us all. We donít always have the resources to cope. Things happen that catch us unprepared. God never said that loving one another was convenient or that it only happens during office hours.
More than that, if, in trying to meet the needs of others, we run out of resources, we know that God will always be for us that friend at midnight. If God does it for us, and we are made in his image, then we should be doing it for others!
A heartwarming testimony, Melanie. It is never easy as you said, and I understand that first hand. My father-in-law came to live with us in November 2001 and up until last month was in our care. While he was with us, there were many moments of self-anguish and complaining. Now that he is with our Lord, we miss him terribly and wait eagerly for God to send us another assignment to help. If we could only remember that someday we might need a visitor at midnight to come to our aid, we might be more willing to do God's work cheerfully and with true Christian love. Thank you for sharing this important message and blessing each of us. Yours in Christ's name, Karen
Wow, thanks for sharing that. I'm challenged by this on a very personal level. I have a brother (older) who just can't seem to get out of a cycle of drugs, alcohol, borrowing and debt, and prison. I wince when he comes to me for help because I always want to grab him by the shirt and tell him to wake up and get his act together...not very Christlike, eh? Thanks again, and God's blessings a grace sustain you through helping your friend.