Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my office at the church typing an email to a committee chair. With less than two months left before I leave my job, there are plans to be made and issues to be discussed. The rest of the office staff had gone home for the day, locking the doors behind them. The door downstairs buzzed. I experienced an instant flash of annoyance. Since it was after hours, I would have to grab my keys and head down to the first floor to let whoever it was in.
We have a camera on the door. Through the monitor I could see two guys I did not recognize. I pushed our ancient little intercom - “Yes, may I help you?” “Yeah, we’d like to come in.” “Why?” “We want to see your big stained glass window.” More annoyance. This meant not just running downstairs but also turning on Sanctuary lights. I was in the middle of Very Important Things! Swallowing my irritation, I told them I’d be down in a couple of minutes. Secretly I was hoping they’d get sick of waiting and just go away. I finished up my email, attached the files, hit Send, grabbed my keys and headed down.
I opened the door to two college-aged young men with big smiles on friendly faces. I invited them in, explaining that the office closes at 4, so I was by myself. (You know, subtly hinting at my huge sacrifice in opening the door for them.) We went into the Sanctuary. Our church has a beautiful worship space. Dark wood pews, high vaulted ceiling, amazing pipe organ, a large gold-colored cross front and center, and the stained glass they had come to see. The windows are gorgeous, with colors that change depending on the time of day and the weather outside.
I turned the lights on and shared the little I knew about them. By now my irritation was long gone. I didn’t know if these two young men were believers or not, but they had taken time to enter the House of God. This was a holy time.
One of them asked to use the restroom and as he did, I chatted with the other. I asked what he was studying and when he said International Studies I told him about my upcoming move to the D.R. The other joined us and we talked more. Turns out these two young men, named Nate and John, are absolutely believers. How incredible to hear their love for Jesus as they spoke! (They are plugged in with JMU-IV. If you’ve read earlier posts, you know three IV young ladies took suitcases down to Jarabacoa over Spring Break for me. Love these ‘God connections’!)
As I shared, and they shared, I marveled at God’s goodness in prompting them to stop by the church. They said they hadn’t really known why they felt led to come. Suddenly John asked, “Can we pray for you?” Yes, of course! Standing in the hallway, these two new brothers in Christ laid hands on me and prayed. In his prayer John thanked God for my hospitality. The words stung. I had been horrible, not hospitable!
I remember someone once talking about a sermon which left him “at once undone and restored”. That was my experience yesterday. I was undone in being confronted once again with my impatience, my inflexibility and my irritability. I was restored by how God used two ‘random’ young Christ-followers to remind me of His care. The beauty of God was on display, in stark contrast to my own ugliness. I was filled with sorrow and joy. I am so unworthy to be called His child. I spit in His face day after day. And yet, Jesus died for me. He died for all of us, even as we were spitting and cursing and turning away. What joy to be called His children, not because of our worthiness, but because of His.
Earlier that day I had lunch with a friend and we had talked about hearing God. I told her I don’t believe God gives us just one chance to hear, and if we miss it, well, that’s just too bad. I believe God is patient with us, and can use everything, even our wandering, for our good and His glory. Of course, it doesn’t mean it is not sometimes painful! But God works in us and through us, “prone to wander” though we are.
It was humbling to walk smack into that truth just a few hours later! My pathetic attitude did not keep God from giving me this unexpected gift. There I was, being silly, selfish me, and God still poured out this extravagant blessing. It could have been even richer had I started with an open heart. Oh, my, do I still have a long way to go!!
Today I am rejoicing that God is not dependent on me earning His gifts. I am rejoicing that He is continuing to give me opportunities to learn more about Him, despite my own short-comings. I am rejoicing in His unearned, unexpected and yes, extravagant gifts - including two new friends. I am rejoicing that while God allows me to be undone, He also restores. All glory to Him!