It was a question I couldn't answer, from a stranger I don't know. Yet my reply would provide direction in one life, if not more. Any wisdom or experience I may have are not enough to answer this question - it is too big, and it means too much. So I went into my sanctuary with God; the place where, by grace, I can hear Him speak... as long as I come in honesty and with ears to hear. And so He spoke - but once again in a way that was more than I expected; He painted a picture so that when I reply, I will understand why.
It's like this - say that I ask someone who is a real estate agent/mortgage broker/financial advisor "should I buy this house?" They can say "yes" or "no", based on all of their experience. Say that person is also one of your closest friends, and they can remind you of what kind of house you want and need based on how well they know you and your house now. God is both of those things - expert and friend - and sometimes He chooses to answer in a yes/no, black/white sort of way. But more often, if we are willing to hear, He will share with us His heart on the matter.
So what He showed me this week, in my basement room huddled around a heater, was a picture of ships. As I was asking Him how one stranger can ask another stranger a life changing question, He "changed the subject" and showed me ships on an open sea. And I saw in that picture that whether we know someone for a second or a lifetime, we steer one another on the open sea. One ship passing another in the night may not say much about the ships one to another, but may be entirely about the courses those ships chose in the passing. "We all rudder one another" are the words that I thought watching this. Sometimes we steer one another to love and good deeds; sometimes to fear and selfishness. But it is almost impossible not to rudder someone, even just one degree, when we sail close enough for another ship to be affected by our waves.
Though I certainly don't have an answer yet for the question, I am in a better place to understand the importance of it. May we have the wisdom and grace to sail past others as we would have others sail past us.