On the Outside Looking In
by H. Wallace Goddard

In mortality we commonly feel on the outside of everything that is important. We feel like foreigners and second-class citizens. We are not alone. The same has been true since this world’s first inhabitant. That is apparently how Zacchaeus felt (Luke 19:2-10) in spite of his wealth and prominence.

“And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.”

Most of us want to do something important, to make a contribution. Ironically we may be most vulnerable to this temptation when we are most inspired; when we are filled with heavenly fire, we want to change the world.

I will confess. I have wished God would give me a platform from which to share what He has taught me. I have wished to have a grand audience and the Holy Spirit to inspire the preaching. I have wished my books would sell. I have wished I could help move the grand latter-day work forward.

I identify with Alma who cried out “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!” (Alma 29:1). But that is not the way God works. Sometimes it seems that the best we can hope for is to get a passing glimpse of greatness–just like Zacchaeus:

“And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”

Little Zacchaeus must have felt small and distant as he perched in that tree. Like him, I would gladly climb a sycamore tree for a glimpse of Jesus. I would love to feel His hands on my head. I would love to look in His eyes. I would rejoice to hear His voice.

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”

A rendezvous with the LORD! A call. An invitation.

“And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

We are not told more about Zacchaeus and his life after that pivotal day. Later he may well have been called to be the membership clerk in Jerusalem South Branch. His humble calling may have seemed insulting for one who had been chief among the publicans. But, fired by a sense of divine purpose, he must have tended the rolls with purpose and diligence. One day I hope to read “The Autobiography of Zacchaeus”.

“And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”

Ahhhh! That human tendency to judge! Even when Jesus has personally called someone, we wonder if He hasn’t missed something. “Doesn’t Jesus know what kind of fellow Zacchaeus is? Everyone knows he is a grafter.” But Zacchaeus pled for the Lord’s compassion based on his imperfect efforts to be useful and to be right.

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”

We try very hard–though imperfectly.

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

And there is the key to what Heavenly Father keeps trying to teach me. God has not filled the great halls or the bookstore shelves with my work. But when I pray to Him for an opportunity to serve, He sends a mama to me who asks what to do with her boy who still wets his bed. When I beg for a chance to be useful, I get an e-mail from an estranged member of the Church seeking words of hope. When I hunger to be of service, He invites me to bear my testimony to my Gospel Essentials class.

I have wanted to measure spiritual impact on the Richter scale; He measures it in heart beats. For Him, each soul is all of eternity. He would give His life to rescue just one child. His own ministry took place in an obscure corner of the ancient world. Yet it was filled with touching people in their daily lives.

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10).

I learn so slowly. I hope to be grateful for every opportunity to encourage a mama, offer hope to the hopeless and testimony to the new members of the Little Rock Ward. When I wipe away the smudges of mortal miscalculation, I discover that I see Jesus in Mark’s eyes. I feel Jesus’ grasp as I clasp Larry’s calloused hand. And I hear His voice when new-member Sara says, “I just loves to talk ’bout Jesus.”

His ways are so different–and so much better–than mine. Who can measure the blessing to get to deliver telegrams of encouragement from the Courts on High to His children?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)



2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.