“If Only One”…

After many hundreds, perhaps concerts in the thousands over a 43 year span I finally reached the top.

At least for one set, one day in one place I gave my best for one person.

Some reading this will be thinking about a phrase “for an audience of One” meaning God. I love, agree and do that but that’s not what I mean in this instance.

It happened that one twenty-three year old man with two children was the only person who chose to come for an appx. 90 minute service at a max security prison in Ohio.

I didn’t ask what his conviction was for, but it would have been pretty bad. He is serving 20 years to life.

Please- not for brag, but perspective on my thinking: I have had nearly 35,000 people singing my own lyrics back at me at a festival in Europe (good thing as I’d forgotten the words at that moment in that particular song!). He sort of mumbled a bit on some of the words of a few songs, and I also did some he didn’t know as well as a number of solo tunes for him to listen to.

I shared scripture, bits of my own testimony, asked a few questions, we had several prayers, some with the volunteer chaplain who brought me into several Ohio prisons to minister over the past couple years, a couple with the head chaplain in that facility.

But in the end, it was for an audience of one.

In some of these situations, the lock-up is very tight with a max of six inmates per session, sometimes several sessions, perhaps an hour or a little more for each.

Even those who have permission to attend is often very limited due to several sets of criteria. We drove quite a few miles there and back.

When we got word that in this visit we’d only see one person and had the option to leave, I found myself saying “Jesus tells us the good shepherd leaves the 99 who are not in need to go find the one who is lost. Jesus shed the same amount of blood for each person”. And that was that.

I’ve said it for years- we say “if only one comes” but of course that’s poor stewardship of time, money, effort, human resources, etc.. I get that there is some truth in such a view. I also get love and a clear calling and sacrifice for one individual is sometimes EXACTLY what God is calling us to.

It was a privilege and pleasure to use that time in that way on that day. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Every person is someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, grandfather, or future spouse, grandmother, etc.. All have sinned and fallen short.

None of us can be, nor play “God” but sometimes we might either want to, or fully distance ourselves from “the least of these”, the nastiest, most difficult, meanest of these. I understand. There is a time for every purpose and sometimes distance is exactly what God leads.

Nobody can “fix” anyone. In fact we cannot even “fix” ourselves. This is where faith, surrender and following the risen Savior to the best of our understanding and ability in accord with His Word (the Bible) is really the bottom line.

But in terms of ministry, mission, calling, it’s also not everyone’s job. There is no call from God to do everything for everyone all the time! We sometimes put that on ourselves and wrongly or perhaps rightly think this or that church or others in the church are putting it on us. Not true.

Regardless of all this we are commanded to love and even then we love poorly, imperfectly at best.

Some of us are called to love very difficult people in very difficult circumstances. While there is a time and place to move away from them, there are times God may call you or me to stay put and do what we are able to serve and hopefully reflect the Lord to them. Spouse, other family member, co-workers in a job situation, mission field, on and on, these are currents one must navigate in life.

Love is so much easier when it doesn’t hurt… especially hurt us! Think about Jesus on the cross. Is that not love in action? Is that not the most intense sense of love for unlovely, “unlovable” people? “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through Him”. Mercy. Yes, MERCY!

Mercy costs.

Again, it isn’t every other person’s calling to spend time, money, effort and sacrifice to share Christ with one person, but it sure enough is His calling for many of us in various times and situations.

I was blessed a great deal on Thursday. I can’t remember another gig with literally only one person in the audience! But it was precisely where I am convinced the Lord wanted me that day.

Thank God He’s more than math major, that stewardship is so much more than number-crunching, entertaining, personal “success” or an “impress-somebody” scheme!

Love is about bringing the best one can, the truth of the Gospel lived out and shared in the moment, even if there is “only one”.

My audience may have heard or not, loved me or what I brought or not, walked with Jesus or walked away hard and empty without Him. No certainty of any of this (regardless of seemingly obvious signs on the day) until eternity.

It’s not even about what we can hear, see, think we can “discern” as to fruit. God only knows for sure what He’s doing in each situation.

Jesus spoke about “fruit that remains” in John 15. Only the Lord knows what fruit will endure over time.

What I can say in faith with gratitude is that He was present and I was blessed to show up before a man in a very small (say, old phone-booth sized) cell, handcuffed, alone, in need of Him.

Aren’t we all in need of Him?

I was the “one” once.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn



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