Am I Making a Difference?
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9, NIV).
Have you ever wondered if you’re making a difference? Whether it’s as parents or in ministry, we often wonder whether our words and actions make any lasting impact on someone else’s life.
Most of the time, I tell people that we have to wait ‘till we get to heaven to find out how God used us.
But sometimes, He gives us a tiny glimpse of the difference we’ve made.
Last Sunday, Laurel and I were at a restaurant with dear friends we’ve known since we moved to Texas in 1985. One of them had recently turned 80, and we wanted to take them out to dinner to celebrate.
About halfway through the meal, an attractive woman approached our table, smiling. Hanging behind her was a man and two young teen girls.
By the way she greeted us, I could tell she knew us all.
I didn’t recognize her.
“Hi,” I said cheerfully, smiling back as if I knew exactly who she was. I’m good at faking in these situations. It helps me buy time in the hope I will remember the person based on something they say during the conversation.
“I’m Ashley”*, she said, “and I just want to thank you for all you did for me. You all built into my life through AWANA and through the other things you did at the church.”
Perhaps she sensed that we didn’t recognize her, so she gave us her maiden name. Then she motioned toward the man and girls behind her. “This is my husband, and these are my daughters.”
A glimmer of light broke through and a memory began to stir in me.
She had come to our church when I was a pastor. In her early teens, Ashley plugged into our AWANA program and our youth group. She joined our puppet team and even took a mission trip to Louisiana with us one summer. Our son was two years old when we took that trip. He turns 30 this year.
It had been around 28 years since we’d seen Ashley. Back then she was a scrawny little teenage girl, who at times sported a bit of an attitude. Now she was a grown woman with a radiant smile and a beautiful family.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until after we got home that I fully remembered who she was. Forty-plus years of ministry, coupled with ever-grayer gray cells, had sent those memories deep into my brain’s archive. I’d forgotten Ashley.
But she hadn’t forgotten us. And she remembered the impact we’d made on her life.
Our conversation was brief, little more than a short greeting sprinkled with the barest smattering of news. Then Ashley and her family left, and we went back to our dinner.
About ten minutes later, our waitress came up to our table.
“Did you see the family that was sitting over in that corner?” she asked, pointing to Ashley’s now-empty table.
“Yes,” I replied. “They came by to say hello. We knew them a long time ago.”
“They paid for your meal,” she said, beaming.
I didn’t know what to say other than “Wow! That’s awesome.” Truth is, I was deeply touched. That’s never happened to me before.
Having someone pay for our meal was nice. But what was even better was knowing that God had taken our feeble efforts to minister to children and teens almost three decades ago and used them to shape the life of a little teenage girl.
It’s easy to become discouraged, both in parenting and in ministry.
Sometimes we wonder if we’re making any difference at all. But God reminds us through Paul that we should never tire of doing good, for “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The harvest wasn’t someone paying for my meal; it was the joy of knowing that God had used me, my wife, and the couple we were having dinner with, to touch someone’s life.
Be encouraged. If you are faithful and walking in the love of Christ—you’re making a difference!
*(Name changed to protect her privacy.)