Breaking the Ice
This devotional writing has been prepared by OSWM (Old School), a Watchman for the Lord serving behind the walls of a west coast State Prison.
The large man commanded attention. Though the prison Common Room is often bustling with people, all eyes are typically drawn to him when he enters the room or rises from his seat. It’s reminiscent of an old western movie when the notorious villain walks into the saloon, and the music suddenly stops. I’ll call the man Steve.
I first spoke with Steve a few weeks ago when waiting in line for medication. I overheard him asking people in his “car” (gang) to help with his math homework; he was trying to complete his GED. Those in his car had not mastered algebra and evidently did not want Steve to either. In fact, members of his gang harshly mocked his efforts.
Embarrassed by the rather public spectacle, Steve hung his head and walked away. I followed, waited for Steve to move some distance from his group, then tentatively approached. I did not know his name at the time, but I quietly caught his attention and offered my assistance. I knew the possible negative ramifications if our tutoring relationship were made public, so I offered to meet discretely, in a location and time of Steve’s choosing.
Steve was cautious, fearing a mean-spirited prank of some kind. And he grew very skeptical when he asked me how much I would charge him, meaning how much of his food I would demand in exchange for tutoring assistance. He was surprised when I replied, “Nothing, God has blessed me, and I am happy to bless others.” He was still leery but also desperate, so he consented to a series of tutoring sessions.
The work went well, and soon, with a little assistance and encouragement, Steve progressed. Steve has an aptitude for math – it just had never been cultivated or nurtured. Now, a few tutoring sessions and weeks after we started meeting, Steve was making his way toward me as I sat alone at a table in the busy Common Room.
As is his custom, he walked with great purpose and energy, like a bull elk ready for combat. Dozens of eyes tracked his movements. To the surprise of many, Steve stopped in front of my table. A pregnant hush fell over the room. Had I somehow angered the big man and was about to pay the price? Everyone waited to find out. What happened next was both sweet and tender; Steve offered a humble and very public appreciation for my help.
Everyone heard Steve thank me. With great excitement in his voice, he told me he had just passed his math test. He was very proud of his accomplishment and held up his paper for all to see. He then extended his hand, which I gratefully shook. It was a bold move on his part – a public demonstration of gratitude and vulnerability to one outside his car. The crowd was, as my wife is known to say, “gobsmacked.”
An amazing thing happened. Steve, a man of influence, broke the ice and paved the way for me to connect with others. Perhaps some observers thought, “If he can try to better himself and feels at liberty to talk with someone outside his group, I can too.” Soon, my prayer to break-through and serve across racial and affiliation lines was answered.
I took a risk to reach out to Steve, and Steve took a risk to thank me publicly. Both actions inspired others. I have found that many are interested in doing good things but often need a little push, a catalyst, someone to break the ice and model the better way. Incredibly, our small, inexpensive, no-experience-required, bold choices to model the love of Christ can have a big impact on the myriad of hurting in these trying days.
We are living in the last days. Watchmen must witness, but Watchmen should also lead the way by word, deed, and expression. We must be the ones to break the ice. Others will witness our boldness and follow. Fill in your own ideas that fit your environment. Here are five ideas to get you started:
1) Invite someone to perform an act of kindness with you. For example, bake a meal together and bring it to someone in need, sick, or hurting.
2) Bless someone with a small encouragement gift. Pray about who that should be. Perhaps someone sad, hurting, new, elderly, lonely, or different. Rather than give one gift like a gift card for a cup of coffee, give two, and encourage the recipient to “pay the gesture forward.”
3) Inspire, encourage and resource others as you can: Support an individual or group fulfilling the Great Commission. Adopt a missionary. Give a financial gift to a group doing Kingdom work: Provide curriculum, tracts, Bibles, or other literature to those doing evangelistic work.
4) Make a plan with a friend or prayer partner to do special acts of service or evangelism each week. Work independently and together. Report to each other, inspire each other, hold one another accountable, and as Scripture counsels, “Spur one another on toward good works.” Do this for 30 – 40 days and watch God move.
5) Exhibit joy in service, giving, and living. People will not want the Gospel you are offering or follow your example if you do not exhibit joy, peace, and satisfaction in serving, giving, and being a Watchman for the Lord.
The hour is late. The “fields are ripe unto harvest.” As Paul wrote three times in his epistles, “Let us live lives worthy of our calling” (Eph. 4:1 Col. 1:10 1 Thess. 2:12).
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