Recently I had lunch with a new friend, whom I loved getting to know as a sister in the Lord. When you meet someone for the first time, you’re looking to learn all you can—by observing, by listening, by observing how she listens. . . .
Let me tell you what offered the clearest window into this woman’s heart and mind. It wasn’t just her warm smile, or the energy with which she talked about God’s gracious direction of her path through rough and smooth places. It wasn’t even her description of the way she and her husband minister to a steady stream of people in their urban home, often keeping them for extended visits and aiming to disciple them in the way of Christ by word and example. It was her interaction with a young man who came to fill our water glasses. That’s what threw open the window and revealed her heart. He was not a terribly noticeable guy—kind of pale, slightly stocky, with reddish scruffy-thick hair and beard—and with sleeves rolled up enough to reveal tattoos on each forearm. My friend leaned over to read the arm closest to her: a short sentence, something about fighting off foxes. As she tried to decipher it out loud, our waiter haltingly explained it was inspired by a line from an Eudora Welty story—“you know,” he said, “that woman from the South who was a really good writer.” (I think I found the line in Welty’s short story “A Worn Path,” in which an elderly grandmother treks from the country to the city for medicine to save her grandson’s life and, encountering all sorts of dangers and obstacles, cries, “Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons, and wild animals!”)