Posted by: Matt Norton | April 1, 2009

Who has got the time?

I have always struggled with guarding my schedule, coveting my time.  In the past when I would put something on my calendar I would fix my mind on that.  The event, whatever it was, became something set in stone.  At times when my schedule seemed like it may change I would go great lengths to stop a possible change, often at the expense of other people’s plans and desires.  I have seen that such a strict mindset has hurt people, kept me in control and at a distance from others and hindered my ability to follow and obey God.  When I look to Jesus’ and the disciple’s lives I see that they gave up their whole lives, not just a day here or a day there.  They understood love, sacrifice, and obedience.  We can see an example of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of his time in Matthew 15.  Jesus has just heard of how Herod beheaded his cousin, John the Baptist, and goes to a solitary place to mourn. As he lands the boat he sees a crowd full of the sick.  In verse 14 it says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  Talk about a flexible schedule in all situations.  Jesus, though full of sorrow for his cousin, sees other’s needs and puts them before his own.  At Jeff Street God has really challenged me to give more freely of my time and to do it with a joyful heart.

When I go home to Earlville I usually take the Greyhound from Louisville to Chicago then hop on the metra from Chicago to Aurora.  I don’t mind the bus or train, actually I really like public transportation.  In the past the main reason I enjoyed it was because it was a place I could get lost in the crowd and just think, pray, read, whatever.  I would guard that time and covet it as Matt’s time.  I would be frustrated when I’d sit next to that guy that has a million and one questions for everyone he meets.  The more I ride and the more God challenges me to see every minute as his, that he is my Lord who guides me, the more I am able to praise God for mister million and one questions.  I can see the need of a lonely person that just wants to talk with someone.  I can see the longing someone has to know that there is someone else in the world that cares for something besides his or her own interests.  I also see God calling me to be obedient; calling me to see that it’s not Matt’s will be done, but his in all situations and circumstances.  When I go home now I try to keep an open mind as to what I’ll do on the ride and I try to be sensitive to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts me to do.

I recently got back from our spring break from Jeff Street and as I road the Greyhound back I had numerous wonderful conversations with people I met along the way.  In the past I may have acted perturbed and gone back to my reading giving them the hint that I didn’t care, but praise God that this time I didn’t.  There were a few times I wanted to but the Holy Spirit reminded me that my life is not for me, but it’s to glorify our wonderful Creator. I had four good interactions on my trip back and I’ll give a quick glimpse into all of them.

I entered the Chicago Greyhound station, and just as the previous times I felt a heavy silence and tension.  If you haven’t been there I can’t explain it exactly but it seems like even the thought of talking to someone else you don’t know is out of the question in that place.  Everyone stares sullenly out into space or at the soap operas they have playing on the overhead TV’s.  As I entered I made my way across the station and sat next to a big, burly white dude that didn’t even look at me as I sat down.  I figured everything would be better if I just minded my own business, so I started reading a book.  A few minutes later the scary dude beside me vacated his seat and a pudgy sixty something innocent old white man quickly took it.

After a few minutes I was startled as I heard someone talking and to my astonishment that person was addressing me.  The man asked me if I’d watch his belongings for a moment.  When he returned he thanked me then continued the conversation by asking me where I was going.  He continued to ask questions and we ended up talking about Jeff Street, the homeless, college, his children, Alcoholics, America, and all sorts of things.  The man was very curious about what a young kid thought about certain issues.  The most exciting part was that I got to share my testimony with him.  He asked me flat out what my religious background was and so I shared quickly my upbringing and then all that Christ Jesus has done in me in recent years.

It was a wonderful time to hear about him and share about myself.  I found out he lives in downtown Indianapolis and his kids are all out of the house.  He is a recovering alcoholic and he’s been clean some 30 years. He seemed to be into some New Age beliefs, but never said anything directly. I left the conversation refreshed and excited to see what else God had in store for the day, but I also prayed that God will continue his work in my friend.  It is my prayer that there will be some of God’s children in Indy that will with the power of the Holy Spirit work on his heart and show him the grace and love of Christ, and the salvation found only in him.

(I know this is long.  I’m sorry. I tend to be verbose, but bear with me and continue reading.)

When the bus stopped in Indianapolis I had a 45 minute layover, so I got off the bus and stretched my legs.  I went out to the front of the station to make a phone call and as I got off the phone a man approached me.  He asked me if I had any change so he could get some White Castle.  As he said that I saw that the White Castle was just across the street, so I told him I’d go over there and buy him lunch. As we walked, ordered and waited for his food I learned that Joe has a 16-year-old daughter that lives with her mother.  He has been in Indy his whole life and hasn’t traveled many other places.  I had to jet to catch the bus as he got his food, so we didn’t get to share too much, but if he never remembers that day that’s ok. However, I will because God used that as one more encounter to teach me that in every situation I can either satisfy myself or glorify God.

I made it back to the bus on time and started to read a book as a Hispanic looking man sat next to me.  I greeted him then continued reading.  I did that for a few minutes then realized that the man next to me didn’t have a book or anything to keep him occupied and he seemed bored.  It was another one of those nudges from the Holy Spirit that made me put down my book.  I asked him where he was going.  He said Louisville in funny sounding English.  I asked him a few more questions and he was having trouble answering, so then he said to me, “?habla español?” (do you speak Spanish) I responded that I know a little.  We then for the next two hours sat and talked, he in his perfect Spanish and I in my incredibly broken and goofy sounding Spanish.  (Praise God that my friend Julian was very gracious and understanding)

I quickly learned he is from Honduras but has been in America for two years.  He had been in California but had been without work for five months so he was coming to Kentucky because he had friends who said they could help him out.  Our conversation was free flowing and all over the place but very upbeat and energized. I was able to ask him questions about Honduras and Central and South America.  He asked me about my family and school.  We were able to share a little piece of our lives.  He told me he has two little girls and a wife in Honduras and he hopes to bring them here one day.  He said his 10 year old daughter wants to be a doctor so he hopes that she can attend an American college and medical school.

Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged about the world, humanity, and life.  We see and hear negativity in the news and all around us.  I will say though, that conversations like the one I had with Julian are enriching, encouraging, and joyful.  They remind me of the good in people which is bestowed on us by God’s grace. I praise God that he blessed me with that conversation and encouragement.  I wanted my selfish way but God’s way was and is always better.

The final conversation I had was brief but memorable.  As I was talking to Julian I noticed a black woman with her cute infant daughter.  The baby would look at Julian or me and we’d smile and wave at her and she’d do the same.  The baby wasn’t always smiley and cheery as one would expect when on a long bus ride.  A few times the baby started crying and then the woman would try to console her.  When she spoke I realized she wasn’t speaking English.  After a few words I caught, “Pour quoi tu pleures?”.  To my great excitement I recognized that she was speaking French.  (my favorite language)  I decided then that I would make sure to talk to her before I got off.  One selfish reason I wanted to talk to her was that I was thrilled to be able to speak French with someone. (it doesn’t happen too often in America.)  I also wanted to welcome her to Louisville. When I did speak to her it was short but incredible.  I told her how cute her baby was and she asked me where I learned French.  She told me she was on her way to visit her grandmother.  For me, it was a conversation that reinforced the truth that we are all humans and desire to be connected with others in community.  Even a small word to someone can brighten a day.  It’s easy to feel like a machine or dehumanized when those kind words of encouragement are lacking from family friends and strangers. (especially in the context of the city) I think that she appreciated someone to talk to besides her baby and I know I appreciated the conversation.

On that trip I could have been selfish and focused on my desires and read my books and relaxed, but I praise God that I didn’t.  In those conversations God gave me more rest and peace in him than I ever could have had doing my own thing.  I am still very selfish with my time, as I have already proven to myself since being back, but I’m a work in progress.  I pray that God challenges us all to give lovingly and sacrificially of our lives.

Thanks to all of you who made it this far.
Christ’s peace

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Responses

  1. Beautiful, brother. Thanks for the reminder that God’s way is best. It brings much more joy and fulfillment than our self-serving actions ever will. I’m so thankful that you’re being stretched and grown continually at Jeff St. and everywhere! Much love, bro.


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