07 May, 2012

The Great Exchange

I ran into a woman in the store a little while ago that I had not seen in quite some time. This woman's life has been just ravaged by her drug use over the years, and it shows. In fact, I was not really even sure if it was her. This woman is about my age, but her physical appearance looked more like that of someone much older and beaten down by life. I went over and said hello, and said, "Sally, right?" (Not her real name.) She looked at me very intently through cloudy eyes and I could see her straining to recall. Then she said, "you're from the church." I told her I was and reminded her of my name. She told me how happy she was to see me and exchanged a few pleasantries; and then she said something that just about ripped my heart out. She said, "I guess that since you are still here there is still time to get right. But I don't think even Jesus would want a used up whore like me." She ran away from me at that point, and when I called out to her she screamed at me to leave her alone. I respected her wishes and walked the other way, but I prayed as I finished my shopping that the Holy Spirit would touch her heart and let her know that she was loved and that it was not too late. I kept my eyes on the look out, hoping to get another chance to talk to her, but I did not see her. I asked the cashier if she'd seen her and she told me that she'd left her cart and ran out the door, so I paid and left the store.

As I was loading my groceries in the back of the van, I felt a shaking hand touch my back. I turned around, and there she was, tears streaming down her face. She asked me to pray for her, that she'd have the strength to get off the pipe and off the streets. I prayed with her, and I started to tell her what to do to make her first steps. Her response was both flattering and earth shaking at the same time. She stopped me and said that she knew exactly what she needed to do. She said that she remembered me preaching many years ago and saying that we need to change our "want to's".  She said, "pastor, I know I what I have to do or I'm going to die and go to hell... but I can't get my "want to" changed. I'm in love with that rock so much that just don't want to give it up."
That floored me. She remembered something I'd preached probably 5 or 6 years ago... she knew what she needed to do... she knew she was going to hell unless things changed in her life... but she still did not want to change, because saying good bye to crack was just too much for her to face. As I drove away, I was thinking that she was literally trading eternity in heaven for a crack pipe, and she is fine with that. I can't get that out of my mind. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that people do the exact same thing, only instead of it being drugs, it might be any of a number of things that they just are not willing to lay down in order to serve Jesus. The thing is, if they would only listen and understand that God does not ask us to clean up first at all. He will take us just as we are... and then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he will begin to clean, shape and transform our lives. God wants to offer us "the great exchange" where he takes the broken pieces of our lives and gives us new life, filled with hope for the future.  I only hope "Sally" will hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit and surrender herself to Him and then allow the Lord to do the work that is necessary in her life.

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