Welcoming the Strangest Stranger

Not only am I a United Methodist pastor, I am fortunate to live with another one – my wife, Belinda. She is hands-down, every-chance-she-gets a better Christian than I am. Where I am sometimes private and withholding, she is open and welcoming – even when the welcome is elicited at strange times.

Case in point: Last night, around 11:00 p.m., we were watching some “Parenthood” on Netflix (we’re on season three, episode 11). The doorbell rang – never a good thing that late at night. As I was figuring out if two rings meant back door or front door, it rang again (obviously the front door!). Outside was a woman who asked if I was the preacher of “that church over there.” “I need some help,” she continued, before I could answer, “I got to get to a doctor’s appointment in Birmingham tomorrow and I been living in my truck and I need some gas . . .” I did what any good preacher’s husband would do, I called Belinda to come and talk to her.

As I listened, the story just didn’t add up. Plus – IT WAS ELEVEN O’CLOCK AT NIGHT!! I flat-out told the lady, “This is weird. Nobody comes to a random house looking for gas this late at night.” She was lucky a real Christian lived in our house. There are times that I am, in my most righteously indignant moments, more like a Pharisee than a Christian. The Pharisees catch a lot of crap from preachers and bible study writers, but they meant well. They just were deaf when they should have been listening. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Anyway . . . Belinda listened to the woman and developed a plan. She would contact a police officer, who has authority to approve use of community funds to put someone up at the local motel for a night. Hmmm, if she had showed up pregnant, with her fiancé, looking for a room, even I might have seen the star and offered them shelter. See, “deaf when I should have been listening.”

Belinda called a church member, a local attorney, who knew how to find the patrol officers late at night (a fringe benefit of being a small-town lawyer, I guess). She left, with the visitor following in her truck. As they drove around behind city hall, looking for an officer, the lady in her truck disappeared. She just stopped following – no “angels unawares” action here, no paranormal activity, either. This isn’t one of those stories.

If this was a test of worldly, protect-yourself-and-family behavior, I passed! Yay, me! If it was a test on Matthew 25, Belinda was at the top of the class. Even though the lady didn’t get gas, she got respected.

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