In the course of a week I attend many meetings. Most often I would characterize the time spent at those meetings as informative, tedious or even amusing. Only rarely can I say the time was life-changing.
But late last year I experienced a true life-changing moment of grace—at a meeting.
The gathering was arranged by homeless men and women who administer a shelter program at area churches. The meeting was called to plan for an upcoming city council budget hearing that would include discussion about eliminating funding for this shelter program.
The 10 or 12 of us who were present sat in a circle. The issues were outlined on newsprint displayed prominently on the wall. When the meeting began, one by one individuals began to eloquently share their stories about what it was like to be homeless, why they feared funding cuts and the importance of this shelter program.
As their presentation came to a close, Linda (whose name has been changed) hesitantly spoke up: “May I ask, will any of you come to the hearing and speak for us?”
A brief moment of silence ensued.
I don’t know whether I have words to adequately describe that moment. Perhaps it was like a window opening. Or a light turning on. Or maybe like a dove descending. Suddenly I was aware that “Will you speak for us?” weren’t Linda’s words. These words were a call from God.
From the time of our baptismal initiation into the church, we have been called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. That includes using our voices in society on behalf of those who often go unheard—the homeless, the hungry, the poor and the disenfranchised.
Linda knew only too well that her voice had been silenced long ago. She had spoken to legislators in the past. While others were welcomed and encouraged in the council chambers, she had experienced disrespect and disdain. Yet she was courageous enough to dare hope that others might speak on her behalf.
If Linda had the courage to hope, then by the grace of God perhaps I could garner enough courage to speak up on her behalf.
This truly was a life-changing moment of grace—and at a meeting no less.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers