I f you’ve ever lived in New York City , you’ve seen her. She’s a little old lady, with her stockings rolled down around her ankles, dragging a heavy shopping bag which contains all of her worldly possessions. She goes from park bench to apartment house stoop with no apparent destination in mind. Your heart goes out to her, but she asks for no pity as the city streets are her home.
Well, here in San Francisco I have my own little old lady with a shopping bag. I met her last summer as I was handing out broadsides during our summer campaign. Little did I know, however, that within that tiny frame dwelt a very lively (and verbal) Jewish spirit. My little old lady was as irate as could be, and her disdain for the words I proudly wore on my denim jacket was quite evident.
How could such a nice little old lady have such an impressive command of all the nasty names one could call another person? Everytime I saw her she shouted at me, You’re disgusting, get away. I don’t even want to be near you!” And those were some of the kinder words she spewed out at me!
But God did a curious thing with me and this woman. He gave me a measure of patience to enable me to bear more of her abuse than my flesh was willing. I prayed that by the end of the summer, she might be more open to her Messiah.
Days went by; summer turned into fall, and I went off on another tour with the New Jerusalem Players. But when I returned to San Francisco , on my first day out broadsiding on what must have been the coldest day in the city’s history, whom should I meet again? but my little old lady with the shopping bag.
This time there were no angry words, no expletives hurled out against me or my Messiah . My friend (for by then we had developed a relationship) looked at me with quiet curiosity, wondering how I could still believe. As we walked a little way together, I asked her one question, “If it were true, if Jesus really were the Messiah, would you believe in him? ” She shook her head no. I pressed on with one more inquiry. “If it were true, would tradition be so great an influence on you that it would override the truth? ” Sadly, she shook her head, yes, this time. I caught a glimmer of shocked passivity in her eyes, for in that moment I knew she realized that she was settling for something less than perfection. God intended something great for her, but her stubborn clasp on tradition kept her from believing and receiving and she knew it.
I left that day with renewed hope. I had seen God’s faithful hand work to bring His reality a little closer to her and to give her a little push in His gentle way. I think the next time that I meet my little old lady on some San Francisco street , her eyes may be opened a little more to God’s reality.
Who knows? Maybe someday that shopping bag will be full of Bibles, instead of baubles and the worldly treasures that will only fade away.