The phone bleeped and displayed an unfamiliar number. I answered and heard a halting, accented "Hi, this is Won Young. Do you know me?"
Yes, Won, I know you. I remember you were thrust on us by a local exchange student organization at the last minute. Not once, but twice. The first time, we were excited to host a Korean 16-year old for winter break. There were these soft questions wafting in the back of our heads, - where was the host family? But HH and I let them waft away, trusting.
I tried to do my very best, cooking my shorthand version of Korean food, going Korean grocery shopping an hour away, taking him to restaurants, trying to make conversation. He ate with near disgust on his face, answered our questions with grunts or "I don't know."
"Oh, he's shy. Oh, he's awkward," we said.
He'd come up for meals, then leave before we were done. Sometimes a thanks, sometimes not. He spent every minute down in his room.
A few months later, another last-minute call to host him for Spring Break. Maybe he's changed, we said. Maybe he'll be more open, we said.
It was worse. I'd come home to find him sitting in our small family room, parked in the one armchair, having found wireless for his laptop. No hellos. Not even a grunt. Well into the night, he monopolized our family room. We were glad to see him go at the end of the week. When his host family came to pick him up, it was obvious they were not glad to have him back.
"Hi, this is Won Young. Do you know me?" the voice said. I did the best I could to sound pleasant, just this side of cool. He wanted to tell me that he had become a Christian; that he'd like to come visit.
After that call, I thought. Did I ever pray for this lost, spoiled boy? or was I too busy being insulted? After all these years, I had not learned to be more forgiving. That quickly lead to another line of thinking: Will having been won to Christ make him polite, friendly, thoughtful?
Not likely. After 16 years of being allowed to behave that way - spoiled, coddled - he will not magically unlearn all the rudeness, nor instantly attain Emily Postdom. But I know this. I know his heart has changed. From a heart of stone, it has been turned to living flesh. Where it was turned only onto himself, it is able to look out and care about someone else. I doubt he'll be a scintillating conversationalist. And he will, after all, still be a teenager: young. And I wonder, when he is 40, will he be able to overcome his poor beginning? Will others look at him and say, "Oh he calls himself a Christian! How can he ----," just as someone might be saying about me. Maybe you see someone in your circles who claims to be a Christian. Maybe they really aren't. Or maybe they are but don't meet your standards.
God - infinite, timeless, omniscient - works with me, a poor slob who is so very limited, bound by time and filled with ignorance. But through His grace, He leads me down a road, as each day passes, I learn something new, I act a bit kinder, hope a bit more. If I were not a Christian, what would I be like now? I'd rather not know. I may not seem like a masterpiece to you, but by His grace, I am here: better and farther down that road than were I not.
So be patient with me, as I'll need to be patient with this one young man.