Previously on A shepherd’s heart…
Part of the series, Game-Changers
Chuck’s Great Adventure
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Being a Real Person
Well, sort of…
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
The training began while I was standing at the end of a long line.
One thing you need to understand is that I don’t—didn’t—like lines. Of any kind. But especially long ones. Especially when I was waiting to get fed.
But it was more than that.
You see, I basically thought strangers were put into my life to get in my way. I had this infantile perspective, somehow, that people in—say—the line in front of me didn’t exist anywhere else except in that line. In other words, they existed only when I saw them. They didn’t have real lives, hopes, dreams. They were props in a one man play. Starring me.
Somehow, even though I knew logically this was not the case, my emotions convinced me of this blatant, profoundly weird—and toxic—untruth.
But there, at the end of a long line at Pancho’s, the Voice spoke:
“You see that family in front of you?”
“Yes, Lord, I do.”
“I made them and they’re real.”
“They’re real, Charles. They have a home. Friends. Family. Charles, they have dreams just like you do. And disappointments. And fears.
“Just like you, Charles.”
And then he taught me this…game. He asked me to imagine various details of their lives. Where they worked. Where their kids went to school. Who they were mad at. Who was mad at them. It was like being a writer and fleshing out characters, their motives, their back stories…everything that makes them real to the reader.
Only these people really were real.
Here’s the kicker. Here’s what he reminded me: That he sent his Son to die for them. If they’d been the only family on the face of the earth in need of a Savior—he would have sent Jesus to die for them.
Just like he did for me.
I don’t know how many times the Lord and I have had similar conversations in the years that followed. Truthfully, we continue to have them from time to time, to this day.
But back to the story.
A few weeks later…
I was standing in line at a Mexican fast food place (I know, you think you see a pattern. Right?). There was this young guy in front of me seemingly ordering one of everything on the menu.
“Talk to him.”
No inside-the-head game-playing this time, I guess.
“Sir?” I said, “you having a party tonight?”
He kind of laughed and shook his head. “No. My son’s in the hospital and was hungry for Mexican food. I don’t know what he wants, so I’m getting one of everything.”
“I hope he’s alright.”
“Yeah. He got hit by a car, but he’s alright. They just want to make sure.”
I told him I was sorry his son was going through this. I could see worry in his face, so I told him I would pray for his son, and for him too. He kind of teared up a bit and said thanks. Then they handed him his son’s order and he was gone.
We never know…
That was nearly 30 years ago. And the Voice has continued to speak to me in these situations. These kinds of interactions with strangers have become almost a daily occurrence. I never know when I head to Wal-Mart what kind of conversation I’m going to have with a clerk or customer. Or QuikTrip. Or Burger King. It’s always something. Sometimes funny, sometimes not.
Like the time eight or ten years ago when I stopped at a Wal-Mart to pick up some flowers for Valentine’s Day. There was a cashier working at the Express Lane motioning me to come her way. As I was walking over—you guessed it—the Voice: “I want you to tell her I made her and I love her with all my heart. And tell her I said so.”
I must say, that one caused a moment’s pause on my part. I paid for the flowers and said—her name badge said Hortense—“Hortense, just now God told me he wanted you to know he made you and he loves you with all his heart. Have a very happy Valentine’s Day.” It’s hard to describe the look on her face, tears filling her eyes. The quiet “Thanks.”
I turned around and looked, as I exited the store. She was still standing there, stunned.
Here’s the thing: No one ever knows what difference a few words, or an instant of eye contact, or a touch on a shoulder will make in another person’s life. I think back at all the interactions people have had with me, and some of them literally changed my life in ways those people never suspected at the time.
I don’t know that every interaction I have with a friend or stranger is going to be life-changing (for them or for me). I only know that, if the Voice speaks, I don’t want to take a chance on missing it. Any of it.
Think about it…
How do you see the people who share your part of the world—especially strangers? Are you the outgoing type or the stay-in-my-own-little world type…or somewhere in-between?
I’d love to hear how you view the strangers in your world.