An Opportunity Missed
I’m not even sure that I can tabulate the number of times that I’ve missed out on chances that were right in front of my face. Tons. Every day. From the time I was young up until today.
I parked my car and walked to our house. As I did I walked by my neighbors’ place. They had just moved in and one of them was working in the garage. I had a thousand things to do, sure, but I could have offered to help.
Or I could have at least said hello.
But I didn’t.
I let the opportunity slip right by.
And what makes this especially bad is twofold:
First, I said hi to two other neighbors and even had a brief conversation with a third. Why couldn’t I at least say hello to the new neighbor?
And second, I’m the guy that encourages people to be missional and to live life like God has set up divine appointments for us. Honestly, I feel a little hypocritical right now.
But this little anecdote is serving (and will hopefully continue to serve) as a kick in the pants to take advantage of each opportunity that comes my way!
Jesus Faces an Awkward Opportunity
In John 4 Jesus and his closest friends were tired (even Jesus got tired…see, he was fully human!). They had been traveling all day and Jesus’ disciples went to go get some food. Jesus didn’t go with them, instead he went and sat by the well in the Samaritan town named Sychar.
It was the middle of the day. This wasn’t the time of day that folks generally went to the well to get water. That activity was usually reserved for cooler parts of the day, like the morning or just before sunset.
But as Jesus sat by the well, a woman came up to draw water. Even if Jesus wasn’t the second Person of the Trinity, he could have worked out that this woman was not well-liked by many people in town. If she was, she would have drawn water when others did so that they could say hi to one another and catch up on the latest news and gossip.
But here she was. In the middle of the day. By herself.
Clearly she was a bit of an outcast.
And Jesus was the leader of a new religious movement and was considered by many to be a rabbi, or a traveling teacher. And in his day, religious movement leaders and rabbis did not associate with the type of women that drew water in the middle of the day.
And to make this an even more awkward opportunity for the two of them, Jesus was a man and the woman was, well, a woman. Men and women typically did not have much public interaction, and a rabbi certainly would try to avoid such a scandalous action.
And culturally there was a barrier too: Jesus was a Jew and this woman was a Samaritan. These two groups had a nasty history and did not get along at all!
But the cherry on the top of this banana split of an opportunity was the fact that Jesus was tired. He could have totally checked out and no one would have blamed him. He had been traveling all day. He needed some “me time.”
But Jesus didn’t let all of these hurdles prevent him from taking advantage of this opportunity.
He asked her for a drink.
He started a conversation.
He made an intentional act to reach out to her.
We Need To Take Advantage of Each Opportunity Too
Here’s the call to action: Let’s be like Jesus and take advantage of each opportunity that we face!
Here are some ways forward:
- Pay Attention — It’s so easy these days to completely check out of the reality around us. We can chat on our phones, text, check Facebook, play music, etc., etc. We all have a thousand and one ways we can stay completely distracted from our surroundings. If we’re distracted, it’s going to be hard to even see an opportunity, much less take advantage of one. So maybe we all need to put our phones down, take our headphones off, and pay a bit more attention to our surroundings.
- Start Simple — Jesus asked for a drink. I should have just said hello. We’re not talking about rocket science or brain surgery here! When an opportunity arises, simply start somewhere comfortable and natural. Here’s an example: you’re walking in the mall and someone drops their bags. You can help them pick their stuff up and say something like, “Man, I do that all the time.” That may start an important conversation that could change the course of both of your lives. Or it may lead no where else. Either is fine!
- Practice Makes Perfect — Over time these sorts of encounters will become more natural and more a part of our routines. We won’t feel so awkward when we’re faced with an opportunity. We’ll just take it! But in order to get there we need to feel our way through that awkward phase first. And that’s okay. For some of us, like me, it might always be a bit awkward. For others, like my wonderful wife Alida, being set free to take advantage of each opportunity sounds amazing. Persistence is the key for all of us though! It will get easier and more natural! And when we fail to take advantage of each opportunity, which will happen, we can’t beat ourselves up. Let’s just admit our mistake and move on!
- Don’t Discriminate — Even though none of us like to admit it, we all pick and choose who to talk to, who to smile at, and who to invest in. Those of us who follow Jesus, however, shouldn’t pick and choose. We shouldn’t try to stay away from certain people, no matter the reason. We should reach out and connect with whomever when given the opportunity!
- Pray — Lastly, we should pray. First, we should pray that God will bring people across our paths so that we can connect with. Second, we should pray that the Spirit of God would aid us as we attempt to take advantage of each opportunity. And third, as we are engaging in conversation, we should be internally praying that God would inspire us to share the good news with those we come into contact with, in tangible ways and by using our words too.
So, what do you think? What about taking advantage of each opportunity seems hard to you? What seems easy? How should a follower of Jesus go about taking advantage of each opportunity? Let me know in the comments below!