Arbitrary moments are never without design, particularly with an awe-inspiring God who loves to weave the fabric of our lives into grand composition by using one string or strand at a time. In such a design, even the seemingly frivolous can become the most profound. It would be totally consistent with the character of our Creator. On the heels of one of the greatest victories in history, over a slew of wicked and false prophets in the book of 1 Kings 18 & 19 in the Bible, God chose to reveal Himself to His worn and weary prophet Elijah, in the most-subtle of ways.
He could have showed up in a mighty windstorm and blown the place down, but He didn’t. He could have shaken the ground with an earthquake. He’d certainly done so before, but He didn’t. He could have burned in the intensity of the flames, but He didn’t. He chose to show up in the still, small voice. At least in this moment, the most emphatic was the least expected.
The Lord has done this routinely in my own life. So much so, that thankfully, I have become quite sensitive to the architecture of the arbitrary. One such moment occurred recently at the church where I serve as Pastor. The occasion was a celebration we call The “Thanks For Answering The Call” Dinner. It is a moment we create in order to thank all who have answered God’s call to serve in the ministries of our church and mission. When one surrenders to this glorious, God-given call to all followers of Christ, they discover a divine, communal purpose that far exceeds any self-centered ambition. It is worth celebrating, because sadly, many of these divine calls go unanswered and unrecognized. We make this a celebration because Thankfulness is one of the Principles upon which we’ve built our church.
It was at the outset of this grand event when I felt the Lord present and speaking in an unsuspecting moment. The moment was far from grand. As a matter of fact, had I been given authorship, I would not have written the script this way. Everyone was eating their meal and enjoying the fellowship of one another’s company, and there I sat, in the middle of the room, eating at a table, completely by myself. I was certain that at any moment, someone, anyone, would make their way over and sit with me. Not a peep.
Humorously, someone was attentive enough to notice the oddity of the situation and snap a picture of me. Later, it was posted on social media and provided a light-hearted moment for many, self-included. But this random, unexpected, awkward moment of isolation, few of which are caught on camera, has a moment of divine intersection that has great meaning to me. The reason is because it provided the platform for what happened next.
Breaking into the curtain of my comfortless isolation, came a liberator. A member of the church, he is also one who has answered the call to serve. In fact, this night, he was the one cooking and preparing the meal. Perhaps he felt sorry for me, perhaps he just needed to rest his weary body and worn-down knees. Either way, into my solitude he came. As he limped his way over, I asked him why he was limping. From there, he began to unfold his story.
He told me about how both his knees will require reconstructive knee surgery. He told me why his body cannot endure those surgeries yet due to the fact that he is still fighting his life-threatening cancer. He told me about the challenges he is facing with his family situation. Then he began to tell me how blessed he was by God and thankful he was for his church family. It made the complications in my own life seem so miniscule. I began to speak into him, encourage him, and thank him for his faithfulness, which was an inspiration to me. And in that moment, in a ministry season beget with so much personal heartache, struggle, and frustration, I was reminded why I was called to do what I do.
I was reminded that I don’t ever want to be so driven to be a successful organization that I produce shallow people along the way. Communal or corporate success is never really success if it forgets the welfare of the individuals involved. As a leader, you’ll always exist in the overall narrative and the bigger picture, but I don’t ever want to be unaware of the stories of redemption surrounding me. I don’t ever want to ask someone how they’re doing unless I have the time and intent to find out.
It was here that God was speaking so loudly in the most unexpected and least suspecting place. A moment when Heaven came crashing into the mundane. A moment that began in humorous and awkward isolation, ushered in the glorious refrain of renewal, calling, and a needed reminder. Perhaps he thought he was getting a moment to throw off the heavy load he was carrying and share it with someone else. Little did he know he was giving me a moment to throw off the heavy load I was carrying and share it with someone else.
I wonder how many moments like this we miss in our lives. I wonder how many times God is speaking so profoundly in the unexpected moments of life, but we simply haven’t made the space to listen. I wonder how much we miss simply because we haven’t made space to consider the wonder of the unsuspecting mundane.
In a moment where I was thinking, “Surely someone, anyone, will come over and sit with me,” the Lord was orchestrating, “I have only one, and he’s the one you need right now.” Awkward? Random? Routine? Hardly. I can only imagine the wonder potentially awaiting me in tomorrow’s routine and awkward moments!