Joe at My Door—Part 1

June 28, 2014

by Maria Fontaine

When we take up the challenge to intentionally be Jesus’ ambassadors and to fulfill the mission that He has given to each of us, we can expect we won’t be left sitting around idle and unemployed. When we take up His offer to partner with Him in His mission of transformation, we can be sure that good things will happen. We’ll find that the Lord will do whatever is necessary to create the opportunities for us to witness and will give us fulfillment and joy in being a blessing to others.

Because I’m not able to go out much due to health issues, the Lord literally brought someone to my door and told me, “I have brought him here to you so you can help him find Me in a deeper way, so you can help him understand My great love for him.” Jesus knew the heart of this young man long before I did, and in His perfect time God provided answers to some deep questions that had troubled him.

It all began several months earlier when a man who helps us with occasional odd jobs brought along his nephew, who we’ll call Joe. Joe was visiting with his uncle while working on some business matters. His stay had been unexpectedly lengthened, and with little to do while waiting, he had come to our house to help his uncle with his work.

I took an immediate liking to this friendly 25-year-old. I expected to see him back the next day, but as it turned out, I didn’t see him again for over a month. This time the Lord told me specifically that He wanted me to find a way to not only give Joe a witness but to share with him more in depth and to not procrastinate, asI’m inclined to do sometimes, with so many things to attend to.

In light of this clear instruction, after talking briefly with Joe and mentioning something about how God is so good to us or some such thing to let him know that I was a person of faith, I told him that if he ever had anything he’d like to talk about, I’d be happy to have him drop by. When he said he’d like that very much, I knew the Lord was opening the door to take another step in sharing my faith with him. And so we set a time a few days later when he would come by.

This began a series of visits that were very fulfilling for me and, as Joe later expressed, valuable to him. Those twelve hours spread over a two-week period turned out to be a beautiful experience, as I came to know some of the joy and pain, the searching and need for answers that were hidden in Joe’s heart. He was sincerely trying to follow God. I was impressed that he had chosen to see God’s hand in his life and that he was seeking to understand where God was leading him through his experiences. What he needed was a deeper understanding of the truth and the encouragement and vision to go further in his walk with the Lord.

Let me share with you a few of the highlights of my times with Joe by reconstructing some of our conversations based on my notes and recollections. At first he spoke rather hesitantly, but with each visit he became more comfortable. As time went on, many deep feelings and questions, some of which he’d never expressed to anyone, began to surface.

Visit one

Along with a little snack we began to chat and get to know each other.

Joe said, “I grew up in very poor circumstances. My father was an alcoholic and wasn’t around most of the time, and finally left us permanently. My mother didn’t seem to care an awful lot about us children. I was the only boy, with four sisters, and by the time I was five or six, I had to start working to help earn money for food. Though I did get to go to school, I had to work as well, and it was often a huge struggle for us to eat. Plus, school was not very enjoyable because I was tired most of the time, and also I was often made fun of for being so poor.”

When I asked Joe what religion he had grown up with, he said, “I was a Catholic, but there wasn’t much time for that. I stayed a Catholic as an adult, but I stopped going to church when I got married since my wife doesn’t have any religion. I do have faith in God, though, and I try to do good things and help people.

“When I was fourteen, my family moved to another city, and I’ve worked at a number of jobs since then and have put myself through six years of university. My life has just been work, school, work, school, trying to keep up and make enough money to get by, pay for my classes, and get married. But being away from home for the last few months, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to think a lot about things.”

As he talked about his marriage, it became clear that he had questions about what marriage should be. Since it seemed that he had never been in a position to see a strong, happy marriage close up, he had a vacuum for any help he could get along those lines. So we discussed some of the elements of a successful, lasting marriage: a recognition that marriage takes work and attention, and doesn’t just run on its own; a major commitment to staying in the marriage, even during rough times; not having unrealistic expectations of your husband or wife learned from TV or movies; willingness to give and take; the need to be heavy on appreciation and light on criticism; the importance of good communication; the need to work to build a feeling of safety, friendship and trust; realizing that, though there will be problems, they are surmountable; working to create an atmosphere of respect between you; the need to have a support base of faith outside your marriage—friends of faith who will be there to support you and pray with you and perhaps coach or counsel you when you need it.

This, as well as most of what we talked about in the ensuing conversations, seemed somewhat unfamiliar to him. He was eager to hear the things that I shared with him. I in turn was fascinated to hear his experiences and to see God’s hand at work in his life. This first chat was an opportunity for him to express some of the things about himself that he wanted to share, and for me to try to understand how I could be the greatest help to him.

Though he knew little about doctrinal matters, either of his own religion or those of others, he was very insightful about spiritual things that other people sometimes struggle with. Beliefs like accepting miracles and communicating with God seemed to come naturally to him. This seems to often be the case among many who have a background of Catholicism.

As we ended our first time together, I was wondering if he would be interested in coming back again. But before I could even broach the subject, he brought it up himself, suggesting that maybe we could talk again soon.

Visit two

Beforehand, I took some time to think and pray about the things Joe had told me and to ask the Lord what was next. I found, however, that I didn’t have to bring up anything; the Lord had already prepared the situation. Joe had done his own preparations and had things that he wanted to talk about. This time the conversation quickly turned to the topic of the poor.

“I think it’s important to do what we can to help others,” Joe offered.

I confirmed his thoughts on this, and I told him that I believe that there is always something we can give to others, the most important being to petition God, through prayer, for His help in their lives. However, even though prayer is extremely important, people also need something from us that they can see and feel. They need our love and care in tangible ways. There are many things that can be done no matter how little we have.

I’d been asking the Lord to give me specific keys to Joe’s heart. I was still wondering why the Lord had brought this particular young man to me, and I really wanted to be attuned to any needs and questions that he might have. I’ve found that sometimes when you’re searching for a key that will bring the most important issues to the fore, you have to present some general questions to see what the response will be. So I asked him, “What do you think is the purpose of human beings on this earth; why are we here anyway?”

He paused, obviously deep in thought. Then he said, slowly, sadly, “I really don’t know. That’s a question I ask myself every night before I go to bed.”

While I was trying to crack open the door to Joe’s needs, he was practically breaking it down from the other side! He said, “At first I thought maybe marrying my wife was my mission in life…” His voice trailed off, and his momentary, pensive silence showed that he had realized there was more to it than just that.

I continued with a thought related to my previous question, “Can you think of things that you’ve done that have provided you with substantial, lasting joy in doing them, in contrast to momentary happiness? When you feel like you’ve achieved something or accomplished something or you’ve done something you’re truly proud of or something that’s going to last—does that perhaps bring you closer to a realization of why you’re here and what life is all about? Getting together with your wife could be part of that. ”

He was quiet a moment, contemplating that thought, and then he exclaimed, “Yes, that’s true! I can see that now! My wife is a high school teacher who teaches agriculture, and since we’ve been together she’s been able to understand her students and their needs and problems in a much deeper way than before, since we always discuss each one of them and she looks to me for my counsel.”

Plus, he continued enthusiastically, “I worked for four years at a gas station and I tried to help people in any way I could. The boss loved me because I always helped the sweet old ladies and tried to make it easier for everyone. Some would tell me that they came to this gas station just because I was there. A lot of people seemed to like me, and on my birthday several of our regular customers got me birthday cards and wished me a happy birthday. I don’t know how they found out it was my birthday, but it really made me feel good that they appreciated my efforts to help them. I guess I always do look for ways to help people. I enjoy helping people with their needs.

“There was a little store attached to the gas station, and the man who ran it would give me the day-old sandwiches from the machines. After work I’d go to the park and find people who seemed desperate for food and give them the sandwiches.”

With every new insight into the heart of Joe, I saw more reasons that God had allowed me to come in contact with him. This young man, who was extremely busy with his job and studies, still found the time to go out of his way for the poor and homeless. The compassion in his heart led him to help others, even though he had to do it on his own.

Joe continued, “While I was going to college I found some poor immigrant families who needed help learning their new language, so I volunteered to teach them. It made me happy to know I was helping someone who wouldn’t otherwise have the help they needed.”

I said, “Joe, I think you may already be fulfilling an important part of your purpose in life by being kind and caring and loving and concerned and attentive to people’s needs; you just haven’t realized the importance of what you’re doing. That’s what makes you the happiest—when you’re doing something that counts, that makes a difference in people’s lives. The time and energy you invest in others’ lives changes them for the better because it gives them a sign that someone does care, and therefore, that God may possibly care. Besides, you are making your heavenly Father very happy by doing what He has created you for. Do you know that Jesus’ two greatest commandments, which we can read in the Bible, are to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

“So, when you meet people and try to help them, you’re doing like Jesus did. The Bible tells us that ‘He went about everywhere doing good.’[1] Jesus told us clearly what His life’s mission was—and what ours should be—when He said, ‘As My Father sent me, so send I you.’[2] He was sent into this world to be love for each person, and He asks us to help Him in this task.

“Why does God put helping others as a top priority? I think it’s because one of the greatest needs that people have is for someone to help them with their burdens, to help them carry their loads. Most people feel the need for love and attention, to be valued for who they are. They want approval and respect from others. When you offer these things, you’re doing something important for people! And for God!

“God, who is such a loving God, wants all of His creations to feel His love. He wants to demonstrate that love for them through His children. If you are willing to be His representative, using your hands and feet in showing love and compassion to others, He’s so happy and will partner with you. He’ll help you and bear the burdens. He’ll give you ideas. He’ll answer your prayers. He’ll do all He can to enhance your efforts.”

Joe seemed to be very thoughtfully taking this all in, as if he had never looked at it that way before. Then he said, “One day at the gas station, an old woman who I always helped by putting gas in her car to make it easier for her, came and waited around for me for fifteen minutes. She put a ring in my hand; I think it had been her wedding ring. She’d heard that I was going to get married and she said she wanted to tell me thank you by giving me this ring for my bride. I saw that even though there’s a lot of bad in this world, that doing something kind seemed to bring out the kindness in others and make a little more good.”

He continued, “While I was between school and job, I volunteered to help several elderly people by mowing their lawns and doing a few odd jobs around their places for them. They were so lonely and needed someone to talk to, and I was happy to do that. Later, it made me feel so good when they offered to give character references for me for the job I was applying for. What they said was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. They’d appreciated so much what I had done for them.”

In addition to his helpful, caring spirit, Joe seemed to have a gift that enhanced his loving concern. “Joe,” I said, “I believe that you have a special gift from God, a gift of empathy. That’s what helps you to be perceptive and discerning. It helps you to understand people in a deep way. It’s a wonderful gift, and people are very blessed by it. However, when you have many people looking to you and telling you their problems, griefs and heartaches, it can place a very heavy burden on you. I’m guessing that carrying all that, along with your own problems and pain, can sometimes nearly cause you to collapse under the weight.”

Joe nodded, listening intently.

“That’s why it’s so important to have a strong, close, and personal relationship with God, the great burden bearer, who will help you carry your burdens. You play a very important role by serving people through listening to them and understanding them and giving to them. That’s your part. God’s part is to do what you can’t do: to actually change situations. Your part is to help them and understand them and point them to Jesus, and with His great love and supernatural power, He can give them comfort and help and change their situation for the better. You can talk to Jesus about each of them, and pray for them; then He will do things to help them be less lonely or less sick or less burdened with these problems. That’s how you partner with Him.”

Joe seemed to be taking all this in as though it was touching something bottled up inside him. I told Joe, “All these weights are too heavy for one person to bear… Jesus is always there for you to come to. He wants to be your best friend. You can talk to Him about everything. He cares and He wants to hear all about you and all about the needs of others, because then He can help you carry the load. The more you reach out to connect with Him, the lighter your load will be. He can show you what to say and do, and then you’ll be able to do even more with less worry and strain.”

Our time had flown by, but Joe was lost in thought as he prepared to go.This time it wasn’t a hesitant request to meet again, but a definite expectation in his voice as he said, “When can we talk next?”

That night the Lord told me, “What Joe needs most is to realize that I want to hear him, I care about him. I understand the burdens that he carries and I’m there to bear them. Once he realizes that he can look to Me and I’ll be there for him, closer than a brother, it will rapidly deepen our relationship. Your listening to him helps him to realize that I am listening to him.”

Watch for part two with Joe’s secret sorrow.

[1] Acts 10:38 NCV.

[2] John 20:21.