So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. – I Corinthians 3:7
Having started the day of the St. Patrick’s parade with emotional misgivings and unexpected delays, annoyances, and inconveniences …
Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”?
Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”? Part 2: Obstacles
… my evangelizing partner Lilly and I had decided that anything short of an impossible hurdle was not a red light from God, but a distraction or obstacle from the other side. And so, not having run into any brick walls, we headed for the parade route, along with my little granddaughter Charlotte, who probably had more enthusiasm at the moment than the other two of us put together.
As we approached the first group of parade-goers, I took the lead, and Lilly remained quietly in the background – praying, I hoped.
Charlotte, however, wanted to take part, so, after I read the questions and the participants guessed at the multiple-choice answers, she announced the correct answers and their explanations. People seemed quite taken with this little lass, and they also seemed fascinated by the story of Patrick, which only the those who had attended Catholic school seemed to know anything about. When finished, I offered each group the little booklets I had made, and about half accepted, so they could quiz their families and friends.
I shared the contents of these booklets a few years ago:
With each encounter, Lilly handed out bookmarks she had made. On one side was pictured a shamrock. On the stem Lilly had written the word, “LOVED,” and on the three leaves, “by the FATHER,” “by the SON,” and “by the HOLY SPIRIT.” On the back she had simply written in green, “You are loved.”
As we were received positively by every group we approached, my rebellious emotions went through a transformation. Having decided and committed to “just do it,” it was as if whatever had been holding me back had quickly given up. Charlotte’s excitement was contagious, and the general celebratory mood of the afternoon lent itself to the approach, Let’s just have fun with this!
Once the parade started to pass our block, we were reluctant to intrude on the spectators. But when there was a lull, to the point where people were wondering if the parade was over, we crossed the street to a McDonald’s to get Charlotte something to eat.
Inside, numerous teenagers were clustered around tables, engaged in animated conversations. While some might find this age group intimidating, I was drawn to them. This was the age I had taught and loved for years!
It still delights me that a group of teens – boys and girls – could be approached by a white-haired elderly woman and happily invite her into their world. I would ask, “Anybody here want to take a quiz, see what you know about St. Patrick?” Faces would light up, with cries of “Oo! I do!”
“So, you know about St. Patrick?” I asked the first table. They replied, no, they didn’t have a clue, but they couldn’t wait to take the quiz, anyway. I read the questions and the options, from the trick answers to the questionable ones, to the downright ludicrous, and hands shot up, disagreements ensued, and when Charlotte read the correct answers, there were triumphant high-fives. I felt as though I were back teaching a fun lesson to my beloved high school students. Once again, I felt like the “favorite teacher.” (I was much cooler in high school as a teacher than I ever was as a student.)
Four teenaged girls took the quiz, and when asked the final question, “Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick?” all four picked “D. According to legend, shamrocks sprang up overnight, covering Patrick’s first church in green, symbolizing life.” All four were wrong.
“Man, I’m good!” I laughed. “I made that one up.”
“You did?!” they gasped, wide-eyed.
“I’m a writer,” I explained. They asked what I wrote, and when I told them I had written books – some of them novels for their age group, in fact – they wanted to know where they could get them. I gave them each one of my business cards.
This bit of serendipity had not even been on my radar.
The last group we approached was a gathering of four boys and four girls, all about sixteen. When I asked who wanted to take part in “the St. Patrick’s challenge,” most accepted, while a couple of them hung back to watch. They asked if I was filming – would this be on TikTok?! Apologetically, I said, no, I was technologically challenged. One young man slipped a phone from his pocket and looked as if he were recording it himself. (No, I don’t know if he was.)
After the usual guesses, disagreements, high-fives, and laughter, one of the students said, “You should post this on TikTok! You’d make a lot of money!”
When it became obvious that “a lot of money” didn’t phase me, another one of them asked, “Why are you doing this? Are you Irish or something?”
“No,” I said, “I’m a born-again Christian, and this is my way of sharing Jesus with other people.”
Another young man said. “Then you should put this on TikTok. You’d reach more people.”
As we headed back to the car, I thought, “Maybe next year …”
I’m sure some will ask if I saw anybody make a decision for Christ that afternoon, and the answer would be “no.” Sometimes we just plant the seeds. Or water seeds someone else has planted. Or show a bunch of young people that Christians can have fun, too. And on rare occasions, we’ll have the privilege of harvesting souls.
But planting, watering, harvesting, it’s all Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for not letting my emotions run my life. Thanks for giving me the strength to obey You even when I don’t “feel like it,” and for so often helping me to “feel like it” once the decision is made. Thank You for the rewards of obedience, whether we experience them quickly or have to wait until we get to heaven. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(P. S. Scripture tells us that as Christians we will experience ridicule, rejection, and even abuse. And yes, we should be prepared, because there will be those days. But thankfully, this was not one of them.)