I finished my parental duty of the school run and I rush back to the available for our parent and toddler group. Kate is teaching this week so the responsibility falls to me to open and to be around. I was really late on Tuesday I don’t want to have a repeat of the teasing etc…
Time is tight, I have been talking to a parent at school that we are becoming friends with (no evangelistic agenda – just friendship for friendship sake, quite a strange concept for us Christians these days!). We have arranged for her daughter and her to come over next week for the kids to play together. I break into that half run half walk thing through the high rises, dodging the broken glass and worse that you don’t want on the bottom of your shoe. A quick glance at my watch and I know the half-run half walk thing has to pick up pace. It is pretty obvious I am going to be late. I then see her. Maureen head down, shoulders heavy.
“Hi Maureen…” I say in that professional pastoral way that ignores the problem that her husband is in a home suffering from schizophrenia; in that professional pastoral way that tries to ignore the tear; in that professional pastoral way that communicates love but I’m too busy; in that professional pastoral way that brushes people away because of more important things.
It is not just my breath that I need to catch. I stop. I chastise my selfishness. My self-centredness. I take her hand and sit in the park with the broken glass and stuff you don’t want on the bottom of your shoe. I hear her guilt, her grief, her loneliness, her vulnerability, helplessness. I say little, I try to force away the little nagging voice singing “half an hour late…” and listen. Hold her hand.
The moment passes. Maureen makes her way to the launderette. A quick glance over my shoulder to make sure she is not looking and I sprint off to let the parents into the toddler group and take a great deal of stick for being late.
Too often we allow mission to become our agenda and not God’s. Too often we get wrapped up in what we have to do without sensing what God wants to do. The casualties of our pre-occupation? The people we are called to love and eventually us.