Have you ever been to one of those eatery birthday parties? The ones where they offer free beverages and eats, there’s live music, etc. I went to one recently. It was great. I arrived there with a sense of expectancy.
I didn’t know who I would meet there, but I knew I would meet someone significant. Yet, I wasn’t really consciously aware of this.
The place was packed. I found an unused seat (there were two actually), asked those nearby if it was taken, and a man said he would move so I could sit there. Suddenly I heard the Spirit of God press me in and tell me I wasn’t there to rest and reflect, but to be curious, to pray, to ask Him ‘who?’ and to be prepared to enter in — into their life if they would only let me in.
Then a woman diagonally across, about ten years older than me, began to speak to me about a magazine only the homeless sell — they buy it for half the selling price to help them live. She had had a successful morning. There were plenty of words and a lot of sharing, but she wasn’t who God had for me. Besides, she spoke faintly and my poor sense of hearing in noisy places couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. Dullness.
I sat there and ate, sipping coffee. For about five minutes.
Then I sensed God leading me to engage the younger man immediately across from me. He was unusually quiet for this party room atmosphere. He seemed reserved, even sad. I asked him, ‘What’s your story?’ He began to open up, telling me about his work, his family, his injured leg. There was something special about this young man, but not special as the world sees it. As we chatted, I shared my life with him as he asked me questions; the more I opened up, the more I sensed a mix of curiosity and discomfort rise up within him. I was tempted to back off, but no way oh Lord!
About the third or fourth question in I said, ‘Do you have faith?’ It was almost as if he was expecting the question. ‘I read,’ he said. ‘What?’ was my thought, but I shut up. I left it a few seconds. Then he said it… ‘I’m not religious, but I read the Bible; I love it.’
‘What’s your favourite part of the Bible,’ I asked. ‘I started in the New Testament, but have you ever read the Proverbs?’ ‘It’s like each saying changes in meaning from one day to another — different messages of wisdom.’ A brief pause of seconds ensued. I sensed his practical passion and it excited me, but the Spirit said, ‘Be patient, don’t overpower the moment with you!’
As I obeyed, staying in the awkward moment, I watched him thinking, and I watched him develop with the conversation. I was trying to pace the interaction for him, to allow the moment’s curiosity to blossom in him, to let him experience genuine inquiry.
Finally, after what was probably only fifteen seconds, I asked him, ‘What proverb are you thinking on right now?’ and he shared two — exegeting them both, passion rising. Then his response was swift, ‘What about you? Do you like Proverbs?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, and the Spirit gave me to say Proverbs 27:19 and 4:23.
We established that I was there to meet people and to help them. I offered him my number, which he wrote down. Then, having asked him several questions about his goals and dreams and joys, I asked him, ‘Are you troubled?’
Another long, awkward pause — God doing business within him.
Part of his visual response was pain, another part was denial, another part protection — he’d only known me little over thirty minutes — was I safe? ‘I’ve got many little problems, nothing worth sharing…’ ‘Every problem you have is important to God,’ I responded. Another long pause.
Soon afterward he decided to leave. And I began chatting with the older woman, giving her the attention she was craving.
Within four hours I received a text message from the young man outlining his key sadness, asking if I would be prepared to help. Prayer answered. Lord God, help me serve him well.
I write this and share it for one reason… God is living and active, everywhere, and there are people everywhere who need God’s ministry. I write not for kudos, but for God’s will to be done in connecting us with His people for His Kingdom’s sake, for there is so much pain in the world. God showed me the power of pacing the conversation, and the value of staying present in the awkward moment, to allow the young man the precious time to think, to trust, to ponder what he wanted to say.