Fran had another unpleasant interaction with the administrative assistant in her department, Joyce. Joyce is usually sour and less than helpful, and Fran gets upset with her lousy attitude and work. But Jesus has prompted Fran to pray for Joyce and get to know her better.
Then, at the grocery store, Fran ran into Sue, a neighbor who has been living with a man for about a year. Sue was distraught because Ed has moved out on her, and she obviously wanted someone to talk to.
Although Fran had been looking forward to a quiet evening alone, Jesus urges her to invite Sue over, and not miss this opportunity to show her love and compassion. So, as she prepares supper for her kids, Fran dials Sue’s number and invites her over.
Sue eagerly accepts, and Fran knows she has done the right thing. She spends time helping Drew with his homework, and Alice wants to tell her all about school that day. They read a Bible story together and have prayer, then she tucks them in.
Again she thinks, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the evening to myself. How I’d love to curl up and read a book tonight.” Jesus says to her, “I know you’ve sacrificed to invite Sue over, but you won’t be sorry you did.”
With that reassurance, the doorbell rings and Fran invites Sue in. She fixes a cup of tea with some of her homemade cookies, and they sit down to talk.
“So, Ed has moved out,” Fran says to Sue. “Did you have a fight or something?”
“Just our regular fight. I want to get married, and he keeps finding excuses and delays. Finally I gave him an ultimatum and he moved out. I guess my mom is right—why should they buy the cow if the milk is free!” Fran and Sue chuckle nervously, as they get into this topic.
“Sue,” Fran begins, “why do you think you’re so upset over Ed leaving? Did you really love him that much?”
“Love,” Sue says cynically. “Who knows what love is? Ed is the second man who has told me he loves me but left when it was time to make a commitment. I’m not sure you can find a man who wants anything more than sex.”
“Yeah, you can,” Fran replies, quietly.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Fran. I forgot about your husband. Too bad the good ones like him have to die young. I don’t know how you stand living alone like you do. That’s my problem; I can’t stand being alone,” Sue says. “I have to have a man!”
“I know the feeling, Sue, I’ve been there,” Fran replies.
“Well, how do you cope with it?” Sue asks.
“Well, I cope, Sue, because I have Jesus. I would never have made it without his presence in my life,” Fran is eager to share Jesus with Sue.
“I know you’re very religious. I’ve never been really interested in church or anything. Do you think I’d do better if I started going to church? Maybe I could meet a better man there than at the bars,” Sue says with a forced laugh.
“Well, it’s not religion, Sue, it’s a relationship,” Fran responds, and with that, a long conversation ensues. Sue and Fran talk for a couple of hours about men and loneliness and singleness, and because she is hurting, Sue listens carefully to what Fran tells her about Jesus.
Realizing how late the hour is, Sue says, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t mean to stay so long. But I sure do appreciate your invitation tonight, Fran. I don’t know what I would have done—well, it has made a big difference talking to you. I feel like maybe there’s hope for me. Maybe we can talk again soon.”
“You know, Saturday I’m going to a concert at church. Would you like to join me and the kids?” Fran asks.
“Do you think I’d fit in? I mean….” Sue stammers.
“Of course you’d fit in. I’ll pick you up at 6:30.” And with that they say goodnight. Fran stumbles into bed tired but happy and praying as she drops off to sleep that Sue would soon accept Jesus as her Savior.
The next morning as Fran arrives at the office, she looks for Joyce to invite her to lunch. Jesus suggested she get to know this troublesome coworker better, so she decides there’s no time like the present. She finds Joyce arriving at her desk, late as usual. Joyce gives Fran a sour look.
“You got more changes to that proposal?” she says with irritation.
“No,” Fran replies with a chuckle, “I just wanted to know if you’re available for lunch, Joyce—my treat?”
The look on Joyce’s face is a mixture of surprise and suspicion. “What’s this all about?”
“Not about anything—just lunch,” Fran responds. Joyce agrees, reluctantly, and they set up a time.
After her morning meeting, Fran walks out to Joyce’s desk, and finds her talking on the phone to a friend. She hangs up, and they head next door to the coffee shop.
As they sit down, Joyce looks at Fran nervously and says, “You’ve had me worried all morning. I figure you’re gonna chew me out about something.”
Fran looks in her eyes and for the first time sees the fear and loneliness there. She says, “No, Joyce, honestly, no hidden agenda here. I just realized on the way home yesterday that you and I have worked together for six months but I really don’t know you. I’ve found it helps to get to know the people you work with, and we have something in common. I’m a single mom, like you.”
Joyce is still a little suspicious, but she starts to relax. “Yeah, I know. It’s tough, isn’t it? How do you manage with two kids? I can barely make it with one.”
Fran replies, “Well, I guess you do what you have to do, but my kids are a little older. I remember the terrible twos; your son is two, right? What’s his name?”
“Toby,” Joyce’s face lights up as she starts to talk about her son. “Yeah, he’s a hand full, but he’s so cute.” She shows Fran a picture. “Wish I had more time with him. I put him in a day care center—very expensive. In fact, they’ve been threatening to refuse to keep Toby because I’m behind in paying them. My ex hasn’t paid any support in months,” Joyce pours out her story to Fran. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Fran.” Tears start down her cheek, and she quickly tries to hide them.
Fran thinks, “You’re right, Lord, this woman needs a friend. She’s not in my life by accident.”
As they eat lunch, Joyce pours out her story of trying to make ends meet because her ex-husband is very negligent in paying child support. As Joyce brushes away tears, Fran says to her, “Oh, Joyce, I truly understand how you feel. There’s nothing more important than your son and his care while you work. How much money do you owe the day care center?”
“I’m behind about $400. And Fran, I just don’t have any money,” Joyce replies.
“What about your family?” Fran asks, “Can they help you?”
“Family? Are you kiddin’? My family…” her voice trails off. It’s obviously too painful for her to even talk about.
Fran thinks about her church’s emergency fund to help people. “What a good idea, Lord,” Fran thinks and turns to Joyce. “Look, Joyce, I have a suggestion. Our church has a fund to help people who are in financial trouble. As a member, I can request help for you. Would it be okay if I submit a request that they help you pay what you owe the day care center?”
Joyce looks at Fran in bewilderment. “You’d do that for me? But why?”
“Why? Just because you need help, and I want to help you. I’d pay it myself if I could, but my funds are a little tight, too. Now, I can’t guarantee they’ll do it, but at least I can ask. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay…” Joyce puts her head in her hands and can no longer hold back the tears. She sobs quietly.
Jesus nudges Fran, and she reaches across the table and takes her hand. “You know, Joyce, I don’t believe that anyone is in our lives by accident. And I’m sure it’s not an accident that I decided to invite you to lunch today. I believe it’s God’s way of showing you he loves you and is going to take care of you.”
Joyce looks up. “I’m not sure I even believe there is a God, Fran, but I appreciate your help. Sorry I’m so emotional; it’s just that….well, I’ve been so worried about Toby. I was ready to run away, but where would I go? You’ve at least given me some hope.”
Back at the office, Fran makes a call to the church and gets the ball rolling. She says to Jesus, “Lord, I can’t believe how my feelings about Joyce have changed in a short 24 hours. Thank you so much for helping me see her the way you do. I hope I can help her.”
The Lord assures her that she has already, and in the process, she has learned some valuable lessons about loving people she doesn’t like!
Maybe there are some unlikable people in your life, and you need to learn that lesson, too. You know, we reach people for Jesus through relationships with them. Fran has not yet quoted the four spiritual laws or preached a sermon to either Joyce or Sue. First, she just reaches out with love, learns to see them through the eyes of Jesus, without condemnation. They are not projects; they are people who need God’s love, and Fran’s job is to show the love of Jesus to them.
But please understand that she is not trying to be their friend just to evangelize them. She is trying to be their friend because she’s learning to truly love and care about them. What a difference it makes when people see that we just care about them. And although Fran has sacrificed some time and effort and stuck her neck out a bit to have this relationship with Joyce, the rewards she personally receives from Jesus far outweigh the price she pays.
We’ve coined a term for this kind of witnessing: Lifestyle evangelism. But it’s simply doing what Jesus did—getting to know and love people, and the natural outcome is that they see Jesus in us and want to know him. How about the non-believers in your life? Can they feel the love of God through you? Don’t miss your opportunities; they may never come your way again.