At the heart of the Gospel-call to be followers of Jesus is the requirement that we really stop whatever it is we are doing at the moment for the sake of those around us who might just need us. Over and over again, Jesus modeled himself, or taught in parables, the importance of “looking left and looking right” and serving those around ourselves before we even tend to our own needs. The famous story of the Good Samaritan who did fully stop and serve is enough to remember.
During my July reading/writing week I came across a poem written by Robert Frost that is biblical in its teaching:
“A Time To Talk”
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
One of the many brilliances captured in this short writing is that the farmer with hoe in hand doesn’t necessarily want to quit working on his own thing (“all the hills I haven’t hoed” are right in front of him), but he does. And when he does the hard thing, to push his hoe into the mellow ground and “plod” to the stone wall, he discovers that the work involved in really stopping what you’re doing for another is worth it: friendship is kept alive.
You will in the coming months receive back from me some of my summer work on the topic of the importance of being aware of the many challenges we face in our information age. It is becoming more and more difficult to really stop and see the people around us. Study after study is raising the alarm that especially our young are losing their ability to empathize, the ability to really go deep with someone, especially (and, yes, Elon University is noting) when the need of the neighbor is urgent.
God will have to help us with this. Maybe an every morning prayer can be something like this: “Dear God, I have so much ahead of me today, so many hills I haven’t hoed. Help me to find what it takes to stop, really stop and be with my friend who needs to know that friendship matters to me, too. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Greg Johnson