“I don’t do muffins!”
True story – unreal story:
A few days ago I was nearing the end of a rich conversation with a good friend of mine, a man who walks closely with his Lord and whose faith walk has helped to shape my own for the better. We were sitting outside PJ’s Coffee Shop in downtown Baton Rouge, enjoying the good coffee, strong friendship, beautiful weather, and a great dialogue about the importance of growing in personal integrity, responsibility, and honesty. Good stuff!
Up walks a man who promptly positions himself toward us in a way I have come to immediately recognize during my time of working downtown. He asks us for money. I have heard this many times now, so it wasn’t new for me. It was the first time, however, I have actually heard someone say “I am a starving man. Can you help me?” Starving – that’s a strong word. I calmly tell him I have no cash on me, and that I can’t help him. (An honest, yet somewhat avoidant response on my part.) My friend, however, looks into the window of the coffee shop, sees the pastries, and says to the man, “Come in here with me and let me buy you a muffin.” (A more engaged response that reflects a similar unwillingness just to hand him cash, but a willingness to feed the man if he is, indeed, starving.)
The guy pauses for just a moment, gets this somewhat scoffing look on his face, and says, “I don’t do muffins.” I kid you not. I’m giving you exact dialogue here. “I don’t do muffins!”
And then came the best part of the interaction. My friend, without reacting in some bent-out-of-shape way, responds to him with, “If you’re STARVING, I’ll be glad to buy you a muffin.” Another pause, longer this time. “Oh well, thanks anyway,” says our brazen beggar, and away he walks.
I offer this story, not as some kind of judgment on people who ask you for money, although this may well apply to many of them. I share this story to reflect how badly our society has regressed from its foundation of personal responsibility, self-discipline, courage, and sacrifice of momentary comfort to a culture of immediate gratification, laziness, fear, and a grossly inflated elevation of “rights.”
But it isn’t just beggars on the street. It is our children. Our neighbors. Our spouses. Our friends. Our selves. And each time you and I give in to the unhealthy demands of such emotional children, we make momentary peace and fuel a much greater, long-term, deep-seated problem that seems to be spiraling out of control. If I “help” someone by giving in to their childishness, I am not, in fact helping them. I am actually partnering with them to contribute to even greater depths of emotional, behavioral, relational, spiritual immaturity in their lives. That isn’t helpful! It isn’t loving! It isn’t compassionate! But it’s what the immature person wants, because it feels good now.
Do you have the courage and the grit to stand in both compassion and strength, making firm, loving decisions about your actions toward others, despite whatever pressure they may apply to get you to act the way they want? Do I? What I believe is that I can only help you grow to the same level of this compassionate strength I have attained. And so, for my own health, for the health of my family and friends, and for your sake, I continue to face the tough battlegrounds in my self and my relationships.
I want to grow stronger like my friend, Eddie. And I know that he, like me, seeks to grow stronger like our friend, Jesus. And the Good News is, Jesus is actually forming both of us more into His likeness with each day we walk with Him. He is teaching both of us to love our selves and others more fully, so we can act in the best interest of people – not just according to their/our emotional whims. And that is very Good News!