Good authors want to start their books with a bang, not a whimper. It is what authors do to catch the reader’s attention. Mark Labberton does just that.
He starts with a story of Doris, an eighty-something grandmother who is kidnapped.
She has pulled up to her church and intends to go inside with a basket of oatmeal muffins; she leans over into her car to get the basket when she is pushed from behind into the passenger side of her vehicle. It is a young man who needs money for drugs. His way of getting money this day is to drive Doris’s car around to her bank atms where she will withdraw her daily maximum amount after he intimidates her into giving him her password.
I imagine my eighty-something Mom in this situation and it is very frightening. How do you expect a normal person to react?
You see, Doris does not seem to be a “normal” person. The first thing she does is ask the young man his name and then she starts talking to him using his name: “Jesse what are you doing?” “Jesse what are you going to do with my money?” [She has read that you need to be on a first name basis with your attacker].
After finding out he needed a hit, she got honest with him: “It is not good to be a drug addict. This is not how you should be living your life.”
She knew she needed to talk to him and she wanted the conversation to be honest. She took a risk; she said that the young man needed help from God, who really loved him and understood him. She told him he needed a drug rehab program. The young man listened and then Doris told him her intentions: “Jesse, I am going to pray you get caught for doing this because it is wrong and you should not be doing this to people. When you get caught, I will testify that you did it but I will plead with the judge that you need a really good drug rehab program. You need God to give you the strength to get off drugs and have a better life.”
Jesse left Doris that day but not after helping her out of her car, walking her around to the driver’s side and putting her seatbelt across her.
When Doris’s pastor [Mark Labberton] went to visit her, he was amazed. He figured she had suffered such trauma that she would be terribly upset but she wasn’t. When he said to her, I am sorry this terrible thing happened, her reply was “The horrible thing is Jesse’s addiction to drugs.” Labberton said “It is awful to get attacked and kidnapped like this.” Doris replies “Why not me? It happens to thousands of people every day.”
All Labberton could say was “Um…yes.”
When Labberton asked if Doris needed prayer, she said of course, but she requested prayer for Jesse, so he could find God’s help for him to conquer his drug addiction.
The story concludes with Doris in the courtroom testifying against Jesse and asking for drug rehab help for the young man, just like she said she would do.
The story also concludes with a pastor who admits that Doris pastored him instead of the reverse.
How did she do it?
She loved her enemy, but even more than that she saw her kidnapper/thief as a human being who had serious problems. She did not focus on herself and her victimhood. Of course she was violated but she faced her situation with courage and honesty. The most important words I think that could be applied to her are Doris seeks to understand her abductor and empathizes with him. Most of us would be so scared that we would automatically throw up defensive walls all around us. Doris saw commonality. Most of us would focus on our loss and feel anger. Doris saw Jesse as the one with the biggest losses [he was losing his life]. Most of us would think about how unjust this situation was; Doris refused to do that; injustice just happens in life so focusing on that does one little good.
Could this situation have turned out very differently? Of course it could but God was with Doris that day, showing her that attempting to understand others is so important in life.
This episode was so important to Labberton that he substituted different letters in WWJD. He began to think WWDD (What would Doris do?). This episode was so important to Labberton that he included it at the beginning of his book, as a wonderful example of loving your neighbor.
I don’t know about you, but put yourself in the place of Doris and ask “What would I do?”
Would you love your neighbor because you can see him through the eyes of Jesus?