Recently, I substituted for one of my fellow adjuncts at the college where I work. She had arranged for a speaker in her Introduction to Christianity course, and he was explaining to the very young adults about the work he supervises at the Gospel Light Mission with the homeless. The topic of panhandling came up, and he gave an account of his interaction with the beggars in his city. He then said, "You must rely on God to speak to you when you see someone panhandling. I don't know their situation; they may really need the money. Let God lead you."
I also relayed to the students an experience I once had at a gas station. While I was filling my car, there was a woman at the pump behind me. She had two small children in car seats; she was getting gas just like me. I had the strongest impression from God that I should give her $20. I did. She was moved to tears and thanked me; I simply said, "God bless you," and went on with my day.
As I was finishing my story, a student on the back row loudly whispered, "She's the substitute," obviously in response to the query, who is this woman and why is she talking to us? But even if my story meant nothing to the class, it crystallized a message in my own heart.
The speaker had admonished us to let God lead. And yet I often make decisions based on whatever people ask of me. I have come dangerously close to the end of myself in all I have to do this semester. I cannot ever remember being so busy. And I still find it hard to say no.
While telling about my experience with panhandling, I realized: God is capable of asking me to give away my money (and likewise, my time and energy). People will always be holding up signs, but God directs me when there are no signs present. The cardboard sign is the individual's request; it is not God's voice.
This week, when someone has asked something of me, I have pictured them as standing on the corner of Sheridan and the expressway exit, holding a cardboard sign. It helps me differentiate between the noise of a needy world, and my Father's voice. I trust Him to use me, in ways that He knows best. I need to be careful not to spread myself so thin, acting on my own energy and my own best thinking, that I can neither hear Him nor act when He speaks.