I am not sure about you, but when I pray I expect answers. Not just any answers, I expect answers my way and when that doesn’t happen the questioning begins. My finite mind cannot comprehend the mind of God much less an outcome that I have not designed. The audacity! If things do not go as I expect I quickly assume that God must not be in control.
Ah, the fickle nature of one’s spiritual walk, where success is measured by our expectations and our underwhelming faith experience. This was where I found myself not long ago. Then....
....it was as if I had my own personal Pentecost. The fresh breath of God cleared the fog that blocked me from seeing His powerful work.
It happened in the humblest of places. It serves as my coffee outpost. Little more than a year ago I noticed two guys meeting for coffee on a consistent basis. In so many ways they appeared an odd couple. One looked like Al Pachino, a baseball style hat pulled low, guarding his eyes. The Chicago Police logo on the front of the hat serves to warn anyone that he is not the most approachable. His deep voice while it quickly fills the small space, it is only a fraction of the passion you feel when you hear the depth of his laugh. His faithful coffee partner? Well, the best image I can give is he looks like a real life Fred Flintstone. He was quiet, but offered a quick and sincere smile. His voice was soft and warm. The only time “Fred” could be heard was when he would laugh, but it was one of those laughs that invited you to join him.
I was sitting at a table near the door, talking with a couple when we first met. “Fred” approached, he just stood there. Finally, pointing he offered, “She (motioning to one of the baristas) said you and I should meet.” From that simple introduction, we became acquaintances. He introduced me to “Al.” I was surprised at how quickly “Al’s” hard demeanor melted. He offered a smile and the typical, “It’s nice to meet you.”
Over the next few months something remarkable happened. We grew to become friends! In becoming friends, God gave me a glimpse into His glory, a glimpse of how God works in ways that surprise, in ways that I would not have seen, or even thought to pray for.
Both of these men have a deep love and commitment for their families that is inspiring. I have seen the heart of “Al” change and soften. The guy has such a heart to help people. He loves to work with guys that are struggling. He loves to be of service, being surprised that God loves people through his selfless acts of kindness. “Al” has an anointing that allows him to see through the stuff that prevents a person from experiencing God’s best. It has been amazing watching “Al” discover that he has a call. A call to what he is not sure, but he is desperately trying to find God’s clear path.
Then there is “Fred.” He has gone through the toughest, most difficult stuff in his life. In spite of his attempts to recover a lost love, his marriage has ended. Now, he focuses with an amazing energy and dedication to re-parenting his children. He is focused on creating a new bedrock in their lives, a place where he and they can grow in a foundation of faith and love. A place where they are welcome, and love is spoken.
These two guys, an odd couple for sure, have taught me so much about God and His unconditional love, they have inspired my faith in fresh ways. They are living proof that the Good News of Christ can set people free and give new life. As Paul says in Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
Funny thing is it doesn’t always come when, where or even in the package I expected. The answer doesn’t always come framed exactly the way I have prayed. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses is speaking some of his final words to the Hebrew people. They are about to finally take possession of the promised land. All of this is happening just before Moses is to go home to God. His final words to the people God gave him was;
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)
Interesting words. This from a leader who was as intimidated as he was frustrated by the stubborn hearts of his people. In the end he knew that God was much larger than his human understanding and that in the midst of the frustration, disappointment and questions, God works through the most unlikely to do the most unexpected. When things don’t go as expected. When answers take longer or are different than we would have designed, I would do well to remember the words of Moses...”Be strong and courageous!” If God were limited by our expectations he would not be god, he would be human trying to make sense of a mess of his own making.
Through this odd couple God has shown me that I need to be more bold, more courageous when it comes to living and applying God’s great love and grace. I give thanks for the surprising ways God shows me the power of His love! I give thanks for “Al and “Fred.”