January 3, 2019

Making Connections

They crossed paths almost every morning. Then they spoke.

Olga Valdivia

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4, 5).

I still remember when I first encountered Gladys on my jogging route early one morning.

I was sure I was seeing an apparition: an all-white figure against the blue morning sky; small and frail, her body so bent by kyphosis that from a distance it was difficult to pinpoint her small white head that was bent so close to her chest.

I started getting used to Gladys’ uniqueness on my runs through the neighborhood. Neither the curvature of her spine nor her advanced age seemed to detain her. She walked long distances at what I thought was an impressive pace, considering my own small and stark trot.

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I used to say to God, “Lord, You know I’m a failure as an evangelist.”

As our paths coincided Gladys became a familiar, almost necessary figure. I was always happy to see her. Although our eyes never met, I greeted her, waved at her, and wished her a happy day on my quest to reach out. I wanted to believe that Gladys’ apparent unfriendliness had more to do with her hunched-over posture than anything else. How difficult it must have been to lift her head to return a smile or a greeting from a stranger.

Something to Share

One morning as I passed Gladys I felt this tremendous outpouring of God’s love for her. I reckoned how lonely and distressed she must have felt under the weight of her disability. I couldn’t let the prospect of sharing God’s love pass and keep to myself the glorious news of a sympathetic God who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life.

Time was running out for Gladys, as it was for me, and for the entire world. So one day, instead of just waving or greeting her as I usually did, I stopped, and for the first time met the “real” Gladys.

Gladys was the name I gave this woman for whom I hadn’t take the time to genuinely care. Her real name was Betty, and as with all of us, she, at times, felt lonely and frightened. Her small blue eyes gleamed as I talked to her about Jesus and how much He loved her.

After that, Betty seemed a different person. Whenever she saw me approach from a distance, she would lift her head (as much as she could) just to greet me.

Grace to Share

We are called to bless others. We are called to strike a chord in the heart of those who feel as if love has abandoned them. Christians are called to share God’s love by words, but also by deeds. It takes telling, and showing, to share the love of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is the purest form of love—love by grace. In the same way, our love for others ought to be gracious, sacrificial, and truthful, because that is how God loves us. God asks that we love others graciously, because His love for us is gracious.

I used to say to God, “Lord, You know I’m a failure as an evangelist. I don’t know how to give Bible studies. How can I reach this indifferent, sometimes antagonistic society?”

“Just follow My example,” said Christ. “I’m not simply seeking converts; I’m engaging hearts.”

How easy! How fantastic! “Go and make disciples,” said Jesus (Matt. 28:19). But He was really calling us to make disciples, as we live our busy lives, through a kind word, a listening ear, a hug, a smile, a good deed, a prayer, and a sincere interest in helping others.

All too often our evangelism reduces people to projects. As destitute and deprived as they are—as we all are—the good news we have to share is that God’s love as demonstrated in Christ is more than enough to find us and win us for His kingdom.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! (Ps. 36:7).

Olga Valdivia is a freelance writer and legal assistant. She and her husband, Miguel, have three adult children and three granddaughters.