Many years ago, we moved into a new neighborhood and aimed to get to know our neighbors. Most we became friends with, but one family seemed to be reclusive, in fact, we really didn’t know who lived there.
So, it came as a surprise when a visitor with toddler twins came to our door and asked if we would be able to take her to the store. She really was a stranger, but my wife and I thought together we might be able to help.
That trip led to her coming back to our house where we sat for hours as she poured out her life story to us. It was ugly and complicated. She was divorced, left with no money, lost her job because she was arrested for stalking the man she had an affair with and no vehicle. She would come by and visit with us from time to time and tended to stay longer than seemed necessary. We liked to think it was because she was interested in our attempts to minister the Gospel to her, but I tended to think it was the warm house, snacks, and free babysitting by our kids giving her a break.
We helped her apply for state aid, regularly took her shopping, and even bought her food from time to time. But it took up a lot of our time, and with little in return. She seemed less and less interested in the Gospel, and as time went on would just fill our conversation with conspiracies, like the government cloning people. This was her explanation for being scorned by her extramarital boyfriend, then her husband, and eventually even her own mother and family.
Trying to minister to her was exhausting, which was why, on a day when I was particularly busy, when I heard the doorbell ring and saw her standing at the screen door, I thought to myself, “Please Lord, not her, not today!”
But the closer I came to her, I saw she had a strange look about her, and she was literally dangling her kids by their arms in the air. She said she needed to talk but before we could respond, she said, “these are not my kids.” She was beside herself in her questioning and kept asking if the kids were ever out of our sight when we babysat them the day before while she was at a hearing. We assured her they were never out of our sight, but she insisted. These were not her children and stormed out dragging the children.
My wife and I sat and looked at each other, in over our head in responsibilities that day, but we knew we had no choice but to get involved. We couldn’t simply walk away from what we saw. The kids needed us… she needed us!
We walked over to her house, and she let us in. The kids were beyond frightened, so my wife sat next to them on the floor to love on them and play with them, they trusted her. Meanwhile, I tried to talk sense into her but it was extremely clear now, something snapped. It turns out she was a schizophrenic, and even though I suspected this, now I feared it was dangerous.
We asked her if we could take the kids to our house, but she refused and then asked us to leave. We begged her to come over or at least let us stay and talk, but she refused. On the short walk back to our house, I called the police and child protective services. We stood outside trying to keep an eye on the house until they arrived and eventually her mother came and brought the kids outside. The kids ran in our direction, but the grandmother stopped them. We walked toward her, and I whispered to her that I had to call the authorities. She started sobbing and put her arms around me and thanked me. Then she whisked the kids away as our neighbor was wheeled away strapped to an ambulance bed, clearly sedated.
I found out where they took her and the next day, Thanksgiving Day, I went to visit her at a psychiatric hospital. She wasn’t happy to see me and her first words to me from the end of a long hallway was “Why are you here?”
Once again, I caught myself asking that same question, “Why am I here? It’s Thanksgiving, my family is all together, she doesn’t want to see me, she’s agitated that I am here, and she continues to show no interest in spiritual things. But I snapped out of that negative thinking and was reminded of the principle from Colossians 4:5…
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” KJV
It’s easy to take the easy path, avoiding those things that will disrupt your plans, eat away at your time, drain you of your energy. But when it comes right down to it, shouldn’t our path always lead towards “those who are without?” If that’s true, then our plans could never get disrupted by such a disruption. The “disruption” was the plan, God’s plan.
Paul reminded us to walk toward those “disruptions,” “them who are without”, wisely. Preparing ourselves for whatever we may encounter, using the time we have on this earth for something profitable, not wastefully. So much of our lives could be categorized as wasted and Paul exhorts the Colossians as well as all believers, not to waste a second! Use every ounce of energy on that which is profitable, those who are in need and perishing. Don’t walk away from or around! Never say “Not Her, Not Today.” But ask the Lord to guide you to Divine interruptions!
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes, Jr.
President / CEO
June 21, 2022