Others Devotional, volume 1
Being the Messenger by Blake Hiemstra
Scripture: Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:1-5
Of all the books that passed before my eyes during the past couple of years, perhaps my favorite was Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger. (Disclaimer- At some points in the story, his invective is a bit on the rainbow end of the colorful spectrum. Expect an encounter with an expletive or two should you decide to read it.) He wrote it a few years before The Book Thief took the world by literary storm. The story intrigues, but it pales relative to Zusak’s prose. He hijacks words, marionette-style, pulling adjectives and verbs on taut strings like a grand, lexical puppeteer. Here’s an example:
“We both laugh and run and the moment is so thick around me that I feel like dropping into it to let it carry me.”
Or look at this one that puts the “Pro” in “prose:”
“Crowds of questions stream through me like lines of people exiting a soccer ground or a concert. They push and shove and trip. Some make their way around. Some remain in their seats, waiting for their opportunity.”.
I’d trade two of my fingers for that skill. (The pinkies, of course. They do little for me, except aid in snooty tea-drinking.) He writes like veal-lean, tender, flavorful.
But what stays with me beyond the final curtain is not his prose, but the theme of random kindnesses. In the book, Ed Kennedy, the main character, receives the addresses of random people -messengees, if you will- and he is the messenger, but it’s up to him to discern the message. Thus, he studies these strangers and discovers what they need, be it a friend, a protector or a conspirator. Without unfurling any plot lines, I’ll simply say he helps the helpless, or delivers the messages.
Even a few months after reading the book, I find his interaction with strangers fascinating. Every day on this journey on planet earth my life weaves in and out with nameless pilgrims, teammates, if you will, of the human race squad. The ease with which I glide past each one with limited interaction proves interesting, if not chilling. I cruise on auto pilot, completely content to coast rather than engage. When I stand in line at the bank with a dozen other debtors, I feel victorious if I leave having only conversed with the teller, and even then, only if necessary.
Going Ed Kennedy seems extreme, but what about venturing beyond my own personal orbit of the universe and simply noticing others? What if standing behind the grocery store lane mom with three diapered munchkins in tow became an opportunity to loft a prayer for patience over her instead of using the time to send a frivolous text to one of my buddies. What if the few minutes spent pumping gas turned into a few moments to pray for the straggly old vet with the pronounced limp and the duct-taped bumper?
What if I prayed for strangers without them even knowing it?
Author River Jordan tackled this same goal when she resolved one New Year’s to pray for a stranger every single day. The motive changed her life and launched a book (Praying for Strangers) and a movement. Maybe there’s power in secret supplication.
Maybe such an aim allows for the redemption of dead time, those brief snatches of time when we bounce between items on the to-do list. Maybe it changes a person’s general navigational orientation from the arrow pointing inward to the focus being on others. Maybe it’s a simple application of Paul’s command to “Look to the interests of
others.” Even the others we don’t know.
Maybe the next time I hit the pavement for a pre-dawn run, I need to simply pray for the strangers who I share this planet with. Maybe doing so will change their lives.
Maybe doing so will change mine.
Prayer: Spirit, open our eyes to see the world around us. Allow us to discern the needs before us and give us the grace to bless others with your love. Convict us of our own self-centeredness. Give us the mind of Christ, that we might put others first and show the world the beauty of Christian community. In Christ’s name, amen.
About the Author: Blake Hiemstra often struggles to reach beyond his own perspective and see the world around him. When he manages to look past the mirror, he sees that he’s married to an incredible woman of God (Carla) and has four pretty sweet kids (Jacie, Kenna, Avery & Carter).