In college, our bright yellow house sits in between two apartment complexes. We call our house The Lighthouse and we sit out on our porch and get to know the dog-walkers and stroller-pushers. The other night, our neighbor, Greg, stopped by the porch to chat as he walked his English Bulldog puppy. Greg is a big man with a soft voice and kind eyes. We see Greg walking Archie, his dog, almost every night. As we chatted we learned that he lives alone, has some health issues that interfere work, that he just finalized a divorce, and that his daughter won't let him see his grandkids. Greg wasn't grumpy, he wasn't complaining, he was just connecting. "Archie doesn't talk much."
He told us how encouraged he was to see our friend group headed to church on Sundays and always getting together but never partying. He said he grew up religious and always went to church, but he hadn't gone in awhile. The subject changed to him wanting a new house with a yard for Archie and then he went on his way. I went to bed with an aching heart for Greg. I prayed that God would meet him or that I would have the chance to see Greg again to encourage him.
The next morning, back on my porch, I sat with my tea and Bible. Greg pulled into the driveway with his spiffy work truck and uniform. He was proud to show off his truck and to talk about the good work he did everyday. I brought back up the "religious" topic and asked if he had tried out any of the churches in Oxford. He said he hadn't. I set to work on creating a list of a few I thought would be good for him to visit. He thanked me for the list and I thanked God that I was able to bless Greg again like I wanted.
Moving forward, I have to believe that God will provide Greg with community and healing even though I may not be able to see it through. Looking back, I have to believe that my prayers and willing heart were heard and seen and shifted things so that Greg and I could have that interaction again. Small miracles like these happen constantly. Colossians 4:2 talks about being watchful or vigilant in prayer. As I've mulled over this verse, I've done my best to keep my eyes out for how God is answering every one of my prayers. I don't want to miss out on any miracle; especially if I prayed for it.
The Holy Spirit moves in these seemingly mundane or coincidental ways, but, he also moves in extravagant, unexpected ways. Every spring, a certain group of street preachers come to Miami's campus to provoke and cause a ruckus. They will often use disrespectful and hurtful labels to get a rise out of the crowd. Some Christian students always stake-out separate from the riot, but close enough to love those who feel especially trampled on from the hate. This year, we handed out water, snacks, played Twister, and prayed for whoever wanted to come into our space. One freshman guy came over just to chat. It was small talk until I asked him what he thought and felt about the goings on. He said, "Well I'm gay and people have told me all my life that I couldn't be a Christian because I'm gay. I really believe I used to have a personal relationship with God and I would like to experience that again. It's just discouraging when people get confused about my religiosity because I'm gay."
What a zinger.
I told him that he absolutely could have a personal relationship with God and that God loved him through and through. I asked if I could pray for him. I prayed that God would heal past wounds in his heart, that his relationship with God would be restored, that he would grasp his identity as a beloved child, and I asked God to meet him in a new and powerful way as I prayed. When I finished I asked him if anything I prayed particularly resonated or if he felt anything as I prayed. He said, "Ya! At one point I felt like a cold shiver shoot down my spine!" I told him that was God touching Him and encouraged him that God was seeing RJ and loving pursuing his heart.
I don't believe it was the time or the place to get into a theological discussion about how God feels about homosexuality. When anyone stands in front of me and is vulnerable and brave enough to confess such a struggle, I let God do the talking. God knew what he needed on a much deeper level than I ever could. He needed connection with God and that's what God gave him. I'm just humbled to be able to have watched the joy emanating from his smile.
One more story about the protestors. It was the third day they were there. A guy had been yelling his lungs out arguing and shouting for who knows how long. I watched as he stumbled across the street to our corner completely undone and in tears. He sat down and immediately was surrounded with comfort. Some water, a cookie, some tissues, back rubs, and offers for prayer. He didn't say anything, he just nodded that he wanted prayer. So we prayed. I started praying that God would comfort him and I thanked God for making him. We kept praying and I noticed his forearms were riddled with cutting scars. I prayed against depression, anxiety, and suicide. I asked God to reveal to him his identity as a child of God, said amen, gave him a hug, and back he went towards the line of fire.
It's not up to me to lead every person into an incredible God encounter. It's up to me to be willing and brave in case God wants to use me like that. That guy went right back into what had hurt him. But, he knew where the love and comfort was when it all became too much. Not everyone gets to see someone wrecked and torn come crying for a love they don't really know about. I'm sure Jesus sees that all the time and is giddy about the fact that He gets to make love more and more apparent to them. I'm humbled and ecstatic that I got to witness a soul opening and cracking just enough to see where love really is and then to be a conduit for blessing.
This is the kind of stuff the Holy Spirit does. This is the kind of stuff I want to be apart of.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.