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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by William A. Kolb

Friday, October 1

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
—Matthew 18: 1-3

I was a neophyte priest in St. Louis, new to my first post. One night when I was on call, I received a request from a stranger who had gotten my telephone number from the church nightline. 

He said he had just arrived in town and was in a motel. He was depressed and had been so for a long time, and was planning to kill himself. He knew that suicide was the wrong way out, but couldn’t help feeling as if it were his only option. He asked if I would meet and talk with him.

I went. We had a very long talk. It ended up that he agreed to let me help him check into a psychiatric facility. He spent many weeks there. I lost track of him until one day, Easter Day as it happened, when he showed up at one of our big services. 

He shook my hand at the door of the church on his way out, and handed me something he had made for me while at the hospital. It was a beautiful cross, constructed out of wire, on a stand topped with a crown of thorns. He told me that he was feeling much better, had a job and thanked me for my help. He said he believed I had saved his life.

I have his wire cross to this day.

That was 33 years ago. I am now retired. I have to tell you that if that phone call came today, I don’t know if I would go to help the caller at his motel. For one thing, in today’s world it is very dangerous to go to a place you don’t know to see a person you don’t know, especially in certain sections of town and especially at night. For another thing, I have grown cynical, I think—most of the stories I have heard over the years have turned out to be lies, so I might not have believed what he told me.

But God calls us to have compassion, to know that even the least of his children is precious in his sight, and that He will go with us into the unknown, especially when it is to do his will. So if I compare my young, idealistic self (33 years ago) with my “world-weary,” skeptical self today, I have to conclude that my youthful self was more on track to believe and to do God’s will.

Lord God, help me to believe, help me to pick up my Cross and follow you. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.