When I was in college I used to drive 16 hours to go home and see my parents. It was quite a drive. Along the way I passed by countless towns and cities all with their own off ramps complete with signs touting the local eateries, gas stations, and hotels. Despite the long drive I rarely ever stopped. In fact, I tried to shave hours off the trip by stopping only to use the restroom, fill up the truck and grab a bite to eat (Usually all in the same location).
Then one day somewhere in southern Illinois I did the unthinkable. I pulled off the interstate and went to a town about 8 miles off the beaten. I don’t know what prompted me, but as I drove through that small town I began to ask God to move in that place. I asked him to reveal himself to the people. I asked God to give me a heart for those people.
When I got home, I looked up the town on the internet and got all the statistical information that was available for free. I wasn’t aware of church planting at the time, If I had been I might of been tempted to go plant a church. The urge to pray for this small town was so great and so profound. I ended up praying for the people of that town for about a year. I asked God many times if I was supposed to go, but sensed his call to stay.
I don’t really know what that whole experience was for, other than this… I was never able to pass that spot on the interstate again with out a burden to pray for the people of that town. It was one of the first times that I was able to see past my own needs to see the needs of others and pray for a town just south of the interstate in southern Illinois. The adventure of going off the map in Illinois lead to my beginning to see the Gulf Coast and the people around me as a mission field. God was teaching me to see people with His heart.
A similar story is told in the New Testament. Jesus and his disciples are traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee. Their rout takes them right through Samaria and by a town named Sychar. Weary from travel the disciples leave Jesus by a well outside of town and go into Sychar to buy lunch. It is obvious that this place is just supposed to be a stopping off point along the way. But a conversation with a woman at the well changes everything. The story ends with Jesus telling the disciples to look at the town and see all the people coming to hear about him. While they were busy buying lunch. God was already at work in the lives of the people and many professed belief on Christ that week.
I wonder if while we go through our daily routines and habits if like the disciples we miss what God is doing in the lives of people around us. I bet the disciples started looking at commerce and buying lunch differently after that day. I bet they saw Sychar differently after witnessing the town flock to believe in Jesus. I imagine that the disciples began straining to see things the way Jesus did, looking for the needs of people and the opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus. After all, Jesus promised to make them “fishers of men.” And part of fishing for men is to see them; really see them and their need for a Savior.
Stay tuned for a series of blog posts entitled- Seeing Sychar: Seeing Spiritual Realities in a Physical World