“When you live in the stream of God’s will, you are moving in sync with the universe. You’re moving in tandem with the divine DNA God has placed within you. You find yourself in harmony with God’s creative design, and life becomes balanced. Your soul beats in rhythm with God’s heart, and you find contentment.” –Ed Robb, “The Wonder of Christmas.”
I want to share a story about something that happened in my life yesterday. The purpose of sharing it is not to toot my own horn or talk about how awesome I am, but to talk about a moment when I was fully connected with God, and what a powerful experience that was. Sometimes people ask me how I know God is real. They wonder how I can believe in a God that was born of a virgin and raised from the dead. These things don’t happen in the natural order of course. Now, if you’re one of those folks who can’t abide the thought that something might happen out of the natural order, then this isn’t going to convince you. However, this experience not only shows me that God is real, but that he desires that we abide with him and have a relationship with him.
Last night I was driving home from work after a long day of processing incoming freight in our backroom. I was tired. I was hungry. I really wanted to just get home and cuddle up with a book or take a nap. It was about 4:25 PM and the traffic was starting to pick up with folks heading home from work or heading out for an evening of Christmas shopping. I was sitting at a red light, stopped at the busiest intersection in the little town of Roy, Utah. The sun was starting to fade, and the temps were starting to drop.
As I waited at the light my gaze shifted outside of my passenger side window. I saw a homeless man sitting in a wheelchair with a sign that said “Veteran, Need Help.” Now, that’s not an odd occurrence at this intersection. We have a military base here, and there are lots of ex-military and vets around. Many don’t get all the help they need.
At first I didn’t pay much attention. Like I said, it’s common to see people like that there. But then something else happened as I got ready to drive away. A little nudge in my soul said, “Don’t ignore that man.” Maybe you’ve experienced these little nudges before. Often they are easy to ignore, and I tried. The next thing that happened was not a gentle nudge. It was like the voice of someone in the car next to me saying, “No, you don’t get to ignore that man.”
At this point I knew that it Christ was knocking and it was game on. The “voice” said, “Look, you don’t get to go be a pastor, you don’t get to say you believe all these wonderful, high and mighty things unless you help him.” And I thought about it. And I argued in my head. “Seriously, Lord, you expect me to give something to every homeless person I see? Come on now.”
“No, I am asking you to help that man. I’m asking you to do it right here, and right now. I’m asking you to put your money where your mouth is.”
I realized that the “voice” had a point. Recently I was approved to become a candidate in the UMC Local Pastor program. If I wasn’t willing to take 5 minutes and help this guy when it was QUITE CLEAR that God was asking me to do so, then what good am I? If I can’t take time to at least do this, am I nothing but an empty vessel, supposedly filled with wine, or perhaps the water of life, but actually being just dry and dusty inside?
So, now convicted and pondering, I went through the intersection and stopped at a bank to get some money. However, as I pulled up I realized that it wasn’t my bank, and that I would probably get hit with a hefty ATM fee if I used it. So I thought, ugh, forget this, I’m going home, and I pulled back into the roadway and headed home.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there.
The “voice” was back, and it said just one word: “Seriously?”
At this point I tried to bargain with the Spirit. “Look Lord, if I give him money he’s just going to buy beer with it. I’ll tell you what, instead of this I’ll by some wash cloths for Family Promise and donate them to that homeless ministry.”
The voice again: “I would love for you to do that for Family Promise, but first go help that man. It isn’t for you to worry about it what he does with money. Is is for you to offer him your help, and your time.”
So I pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store and purchased a couple of things I needed. I got some cash back. Some of it I deposited in the Salvation Army Red Kettle, and the rest I put in my wallet. I drove back a half mile or so, hoping he would still be there, wondering if I had failed.
He was still there.
I parked, got out of my car and approached him. He didn’t see me coming and looked a bit startled when I spoke to him. I said “Here, man. I’ve got something for you.” He looked at me, and I put the bill into his outstretched hand. Then I squatted a bit (he was in a wheelchair as I said), I put my hand on his shoulder and wrapped my arm around him a bit. It was like the spirit was coursing through me, I felt he needed that human contact, if just for a second. He looked at me with big, thankful eyes and said. “Thank you so much. God bless you, sir. Have a Merry Christmas!” I patted him on the back and said “I hope you can as well.” He smiled again and I walked back to my car.
Once I got in and shut the door I cried. I don’t know how much that experience moved or helped that man, but it had been earth moving for me. I cried because I realized just how close I was to driving away and ignoring him.
The whole thing was just powerful. Now I want to be careful here a bit. I’m not under any delusion that I solved all of that man’s problems. I recognize that his physical needs are still far greater than my spiritual needs. I realize that God didn’t make that man homeless just so I, some privileged, comfy, modern, suburban guy could get warm fuzzies at Christmas. I recognize that there is still much to do and that this one experience does not excuse me from looking for further opportunities to help.
But I was moved. I tried to get it out of it. Lord knows I tried. I pulled out every excuse, including the tired old stereotype of “homeless people just buy beer and drugs.” I realized that God was calling me to do that, right then. I realized that God was calling me to minister to that man, and how could I call myself a Minister and not do that?
And when I did it. I felt dialed in. I felt in sync with the Holy Spirit. I felt connected to God. I felt his power, his compassion, and his love flowing into that situation, for me and for the man I stopped to help. Then I read the quote that I cited above this morning and it hit me all over again.
When we earnestly seek Christ. When we try to follow him and do his will, we can get “dialed in.” We get connected, plugged into the ultimate source of all life. It’s wondrous. I want to do it again. I want to experience it again, and again, and again. I want to have a relationship with God and a living, breathing, vital faith that just CAN’T HELP but do His will, knowing that He can use that to his glory and his purpose. Alleluia, A-men.
What might God be calling you to do right this second? What happens when that nudge turns into a a not so still, not so small voice? What is God saying to you today? He is real, He loves you, He longs for you to draw close to him. This is all the proof I need.
But there was something else. As I drove away after I gathered myself the Voice had one more thing to say to me:
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
That is all the reward, all the fulfillment that I could ever ask for.