Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Power of the One

An overarching theme revealed itself on the last night of a week of prayer at my beloved little church in the suburbs.  Emerging there, in the pile of our own repentance, in the  intercession for sick people, sad people, lost people, nations at war, and restoration from the vast wreckage of the fallout of sin came the simple truth of the power of the One.

I’m betting that most folks are like me in feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in our own cities and towns, let alone the wide world.  Between the distraction of never ending “noise” from the technology that is drowning us, and the pressure on our time to simply do the everyday things that sustain us, we’re about at max capacity.  Looking at the needs “out there” can lead to practical paralysis.  

But with the truth of the power of the One engaged, things can be different. They are different.  Here are 2 components of this truth that build on one another:

  1. The One begins with Jesus Christ.  He is the example of this power at work, and the source of the power itself.  The Gospel (Good news, best news EVER) was and is preached to the many, but is given for the one.  Jesus is not like a pagan God, looking for the masses to hop-to and behave.  He is a Savior of each soul, a comforter to the one man, hearing the voice of a little girl in an impoverished home in India, and also the cry of the middle aged millionaire dogged and empty from an impoverished soul. Jesus looked into the eyes of the short man in the tree and said “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house today.”  Jesus sees us not as a mass of humanity, but each person as a unique, valued, priceless creation.  
        2.  Our callings are ultimately to the one.  Mother Theresa said this:
            “ Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

Mother Theresa ended up impacting millions, from the beggars on the streets of Bangladesh to leaders in the loftiest positions       in the world.  But her focus was never on the many, but the one.  Maybe you can’t provide for the refugee you see on TV behind a Turkish fence.  But maybe you can pay for the groceries in the cart of someone at Walmart who you know is struggling.  Maybe it’s in your wheelhouse to buy a homeless man a cup of coffee, and share a little conversation with him.  Perhaps you can’t stop the riots in Baltimore, but can you write a note of encouragement to a coworker who is struggling with her kids?   As Mother Theresa also said, “Do small things with great love.”

I cannot solve the problem of the age old racial divides conceived in the womb of America by the disgraceful sin of slavery.  But I can listen and try to understand a black person’s view of the world, as I did recently over snacks after a meeting I attended.  I can hear the one, even if the crushing sound of the many is too much for my limited soul.

I cannot cure the heartbreak of homelessness, nor the plagues of mental illness and addiction that often go with it.  But I can work the overnight at the code blue shelter, and sit on the cot while Erica tells me about her 2 beloved children, and my fellow volunteer bakes a warm banana bread in the oven for the ladies on a cold night.

There are thousands of things we cannot do: Cure government corruption, save every orphan, stop the railroading of distraction that is stealing the best of our young people.  

We are not God.  

He will one day wrap this thing up, fixing the ills that the mixed blessing of free will has made possible, turning every wrong right in one explosive healing that will rock all of heaven and earth.  He will do this, in the perfection of time.  

But for now, he calls us to Himself first, as the One.  Then, He calls us to show His mercy and grace to the one.

He has uniquely designed each person for this ministry to the one.  Frederick Buechner says it so much better than I ever could:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

It may take you out of your comfort zone, but you may be shocked at the deep gladness you will find when you reach out to the one out of a heart of love.

My friend Katrina found this deep gladness, and she impacted the one…and beyond.

Her neighbor was severely injured in a rugby game, and became paralyzed  from the neck down.  His wife and then baby daughter were destined to visiting him for the rest of his life in a nursing home, since their small home was ill equipped for the great needs of a quadriplegic.  But Katrina wasn’t having it.  She approached a contractor to see if he might donate time and materials to build on a room in her neighbor’s home to accommodate his handicap.  He agreed, provided she would act as “boss”, getting other donations for electrical, plumbing, siding, materials etc…, and that she would run the job from start to finish.

Thus began the odyssey of a middle aged housewife and the power of the one.  With the grace of God as her fuel, this rather shy, unassuming woman lit the engine of the power of lots of ones to be the hands and feet of Christ on earth. Today, her neighbor has a special ceiling lift to move him around the brand new fully accommodating addition on his home.  He lives with his wife and daughter.  And though Katrina could not solve all the problems in this world, or even all the problems of her neighbor, she grabbed hold of the joy and work and victory that comes when the power of the one is harnessed.  

One word of warning:  Guilt is the wrong motivation for reaching out to the one.  Only love will do.  The apostle Paul said it - “If I give all I possess to the poor, and offer my body to be burned in the flames, but have not love, it profits me nothing…”  

Keep it simple and do it in love, or you risk becoming a self righteous, self oriented prig.  

But acts performed in simple love do stretch far beyond our limitations and really do change the world.

I recently attended a wedding where the bride waxed poetically about the many ones who had a part in making her who she is.  I close with a quote from her simple but profound speech…

“I grew up in a church that talked a lot about changing the world, being a “world changer”. At some point I started resenting that kind of pressure.  The truth is that most of us scraggly humans on the face of this planet are not Martin Luther’s or Mother Theresa’s.  We have a limited circle of influence constructed by propinquity and scattershot occurrences, so our world-changing, at the end of the day, consists of how well and how hard we loved those people standing with us or crossing our paths for these minute slices of time.  It’s like that story about the little boy picking up and throwing starfish stranded on the sand back into the ocean as the tide goes in.  A man says to him, “You’re not making a difference” and the boy replies, “I’m making a difference to this one”.
~ Micaela Martinez 

Be the one, to the one, for the glory of The One.

Your friend on the pilgrim road.


  1. Dear Friend, Just found my way back to your blog. You have such a propensity to take us all deeper than our casual thoughts allow. Thank you for putting into words how we should purpose to love and live in this new year! Thank you for being not only a gifted writer, but an even better friend!

  2. Yes, thank God for your gift of writing. You bore in on the simplest notion that we can make a difference if we are obedient to love the way He loved. Thank you.