In the Encore
About 2 months ago I produced and led worship for a larger conference inspiring bay area leaders to believe God could do more in our valley. It was a great couple of days of worship and prayer. It was also a lot of work. Like a good workout at the gym, after 2 days of producing, coordinating, leading music and prayer, and lots of one-on-one conversations I felt I had "left it all on the table." Pleased with results of some hard work I hopped in my car and raced home aiming to get a little rest before the following day's worship services. While on my way home I saw a homeless guy and felt prompted to stop and connect. I felt God was giving me the opportunity to extend relationship to someone easily passed over by our society. Instead I drove right on by. As I passed a few blocks I began to try to rationalize my actions: you need to get home and rest up, it's late and you get up early, I'm sure he's begging for cash - cash which you don't have on you right now anyways. In that moment God reminded me that he "owns the cattle on a thousands hills." He said to me, "Don't feel guilty about not providing for that guy. I can always find someone else to provide for him. I was providing YOU with an opportunity. Your loss."
I realized I had my eye on receiving God's blessing during a 2 day worship conference when really part of God's plan had been to surprise me with an encounter following. You could say I experienced the show but missed the encore.
The following week I shared with my small group of guys how I felt I had missed an opportunity to be Jesus to someone on the fringe of our society. I vowed to the guys I would look for the opportunity again and if God was to give me another chance I'd take him up on it.
Tonight, I was driving home after another 10 hour day of ministry. Same corner. Different guy. New opportunity.
The only problem is that I couldn't get over a lane and I couldn't get any cash out of my wallet. The light turned green and like a lemming I pressed the gas pedal down and drove right on by. I locked eyes with the guy and waved like somehow he would understand that I tried. Maybe next time!
But as I passed him I knew I had to stop. I had to figure out how to turn around. I was going to have to go against the momentum of the moment in order to meet God. I pulled over in a nearby parking lot and pulled out a one dollar bill. I felt God wasn't interested so much in me providing money as much as he was asking me to give of my time. I locked the car and crossed over the street to meet Jacob - the beggar on the corner of a busy freeway offramp. I told Jacob as weird as it sounds God had told me to pull over and to talk with him. Our conversation flowed naturally over the next several minutes. I asked him his name, where he is from, where he sleeps, how he's holding up in the cold weather. I asked him what his plan is to get off the streets. Through several heartbreaking stories it was clear Jacob had lost hope to be anywhere other than alone on the streets.
But this is what I know - Jacob is not too far away from God's love. There's still hope. God's grace is big enough. As I gave Jacob my one dollar bill I told him that God loves and listens to the prayers of kids. I told Jacob I have kids that would pray for him - by name - tonight. And they did. And God heard them.
In the moments I met with Jacob the heavens didn't open up. I didn't levitate. There were no miraculous healings. But as I drove away I thanked God for giving me more than one opportunity to experience his kingdom at work. Only God could allow me - a guy singing all day about Emmanuel (God with us) - to see Jesus in the eyes of a beggar named Jacob.
Yes. God is with us on the side of the road of an otherwise mundane evening commute. He is in the selfless and clumsy prayers of small children. He is in the encore.