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In the Path or In the Way?

Imagine being out for a walk. You come upon dogs such as these. They form something of a furry barricade. You'd like to continue your walk. What do you do?

If you are an animal lover, you might speak to them. Pet them. Share a treat with them (because you always carry them!). If you are terrified of dogs, you back up and turn around. Or ask their owner to move them. Or freeze in fright (because you are still traumatized by an attack when you were a child). Are these presumably domesticated dogs simply in the path you are traveling down or are they in the way?

In a wonderful but violent movie - it's about war after all - titled Four Feathers and starring Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson, the cowardly British soldier portrayed by Ledger finds himself in the Sudan alone. He had resigned from his regiment knowing that combat was inevitable. But learning that his fellow soldiers were under brutal attack from Sudanese rebels, he goes anyway, in part to reverse the curse being shamed by the four feathers and in part to rescue his best friend. Stumbling across the desert, he is nearly dead when a native comes upon him and takes him to safety.

It's an unlikely combo. A large dark-skinned man sheltering a slight light-skinned man. Risking great peril, the two achieve the British soldier's goal of rescuing his best friend. When the native was asked why he went through so much on a foreigner's behalf, he laughed and replied, "Because God put you in my path!"

What if we could see opportunities to help others in such a positive light? Sometimes we feel that they are in our way, obstacles to what we had hoped to do and where we had intended to go. Maybe we reroute our direction to circumvent service. Maybe we offer a multitude of reasons which justify our refusal to get involved. And maybe we help, displacing fear with grace and stinginess with generosity. And maybe we become more rather than less as we do.

The news is filled with horrific stories of violence and brutality. Maybe there's some close by where we are but most of it is across the country or halfway across the world. Some playing a god determining the fate of others. Some of one race cutting the lives of those of another race short. Is any of this a concern to us? Do we find ourselves annoyed because these situations feel like obstacles to the happy hopes we have for our peaceful and prosperous lives?

As the apostle Paul traveled about preaching the good news of God's wide and welcoming love, he came upon a group of people who might have been in his way. They were women. But they were worshiping the same Lord he served. And because they were in his path, he shared the gospel. One named Lydia opened her heart to accept Paul's words and then opened her life wider to receive him into her home. He had been put in her path, after all, not in her way.

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