Things don’t always pan out the way that we expect! I knew that when Joe and I took on the responsibility of looking after Patrick and Shannon while their mum was in hospital that it would be longer than just the 28 days she had been sectioned for. The last time, last summer, turned out to be 32 days. This time was have reached day 50 and they are still with us, and mum at times seems no closer to going home. Lights at the end of the tunnel seem to get snuffed out and everyone gets emotional and weepy. There is a definite “I wish I had not got involved..” thought inside my head, but the fact is I am involved and becoming uninvolved, by piling the children on to the social workers and into the foster care system, is not an option.
I was feeling distinctly sorry for myself this morning and God simply said to me, “You are the friend at midnight.” Luke’s gospel illustrates Jesus’ teaching on prayer by an example of a man turning up on the doorstep of a friend looking for bread to feed unexpected visitors. The New Living Translation has a couple of words added to the end of a sentence that other versions don’t have. The friend is in bed, the house is locked up, everyone is asleep and he says that he can’t help “this time”. It made me think that the friend had been in this position before and had come up with the goods the last time round. He had given the loaves of bread the last time, and perhaps the time before that, and the time before that.
There are just some people that come back time and again in need, sometimes with the same need. They haven’t learnt to keep the extra loaf or two in the freezer for such a time. Other people become their friend at midnight because they have the resources and they have met the need in the past.
As that “friend at midnight”, I don’t want to help on the basis that I am being worn down by someone’s persistent knocking. I don’t want to shout out of the window that I am sleeping and the house is locked up and I don’t want to be inconvenienced. I don’t want to remind someone that I helped last time and this time they should get their act together and if their visitor went hungry that would teach them a lesson about being prepared.
I want to help because I am their friend. I want to help because I have the resources they obviously don’t have. I want to help because they trusted me to ask. I want to help because I care.
Life throws unexpected challenges into the paths of us all. We don’t always have the resources to cope. Things happen that are unexpected and catch us unprepared. God never said that loving one another was convenient and happened during office hours.
More than that, if, in trying to meet the needs of others, we run out of resources, we know that God will always be for us that friend at midnight. If God does it for us, and we are made in his image, then we should be doing it for others!