Are You Detouring Around the Opportunity Right in Front of You?
It's easy to do this. At least, it is for me. I sometimes walk circles around the opportunity in front of my nose. "What's the next step?" I ask.
It isn't that I don't see the opportunity; I just don't recognize it as the opportunity that it is. So, I continue to look around, wondering what I'm missing.
Skirting Around Samaria
A friend, Chris Mancl, preached the sermon at our church this morning. His message was based on the familiar story of the woman at the well from The Gospel of John, Chapter 4 in the New Testament.
The story's setting is inside Samaria, an area the Jews preferred to travel around rather than through. He brought out a point which is commonly noted in teaching about this passage. It is the statement is made at the beginning of the story that it was "necessary" for Jesus to travel through Samaria.
Chris pointed out that it wasn't "physically" necessary to travel through Samaria. The main route that most people used skirted around that area.
Think about the times you've traveled and had to go "through" a city. Generally, you have the option of taking a freeway bypass around the city or the through city route. Even though it may add a few miles to your route, generally, people take the bypass around the city. You don't want to be slowed down by hectic traffic of the locals.
Where's the Samaria in Your City?
As I was listening to this familiar story, it occurred to me that most larger cities and even some smaller ones include a "Samaria" in their borders. It's the area that you skirt around rather than drive through, even if the route would be shorter
My daughter and son-in-law moved to the Samaria of their city a little over a year ago. If you're familiar with the Twin Cities in Minnesota, you know that North Minneapolis fits that criteria. Their police precinct was on the national news for many weeks in the last year because of the protestors camped out there.
Gun shots are all too common in their neighborhood. Just this year a 2-year-old and a grandmother found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bullets missed the planned targets and hit them instead.
If we looked at a map of your city, could you point out the "Samaria?" What if God said it was "necessary" for you to go there? What if that was the opportunity that you're detouring around?
Opportunities Come in Different Sizes
As Chris shared this story, he talked about the Samaria he had been overlooking. His Samaria wasn't a physical area of his city; it was just the everyday opportunities to connect with people.
That's what Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well. He just started a conversation with a stranger. He made himself available and ended up transforming the lives of many people within her city as a result.
There's another story in the New Testament that mentions a Samaritan. In this story, the Samaritan isn't the one in need. Instead, he is the one who chose to recognize an opportunity to make a difference that several others had detoured around.
Is there any opportunity that you've been seeing as an obstacle to avoid?
Are you listening to the direction of the Spirit or have you been brushing him off because the route he's suggesting isn't the standard path or are you too busy looking for the next "opportunity" to actually recognize it?
I'm asking myself these questions. It's always good to gain a fresh perspective of our patterns of thought and approaches to life. Opportunities are all around us. We just need to truly see them.