During my seminary years, I re-united with a friend after he and I had taken some time off from classes for about a year. "Were you able to rest?" I asked him? I knew that he was a student Pastor from Tennessee and that he commuted every weekend to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend classes.
"Not really," he said, "but I did meet a person that changed the way I was living my life. My spiritual life was stale. I was living in the valley of dry bones, so to speak. I was praying every day. I was reading scripture. But I did not hear God's voice and I wondered if he heard mine. My sermons lacked something, and my relationship with the congregation of my church was suffering. I thought God had deserted me. So I increased my efforts. I worked harder and longer, but the results were the same.
One cold, rainy morning I decided to take some time for myself and go to a local coffee shop; order myself some coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit; and sit near the window, read my newspaper and watch the rain fall. But, before I could take a bite of my biscuit I had this feeling I was being watched. I looked around, but there were only two others besides the woman behind the counter. I looked out the window. Standing across the street in the cold rain was a man with an untrimmed beard, wild hair, dirty clothes, staring at me as I attempted to eat. He looked as if he had been living in the streets for quite a while. I could not read or eat or drink my coffee because each time I looked up, his eyes burned a hole through me.
I was about to change seats, but then I heard God speaking to me. After all of those months of silence, I heard God's voice again. And he said, "Go to him." Here I was, in a warm, dry coffee shop, with food, and a newspaper to read and the last thing I wanted to do was go out into the cold rain with no umbrella. But, God is persistent. "Go to him." Finally, I went outside and walked up to the man and stood in front of him. "OK, now what?" I asked silently. "Put your arms around him," said God. The man was wet, and dirty and I wanted no part of him. "Put your arms around him." So I did.
And God spoke again. "Tell him that I love him." "God loves you," I said. The man did not move or acknowledge what I had said.
"Feed this man." said God.
"But God, I don't have any more money. I spent it on the sausage and egg biscuit and coffee."
"Feed this man."
So I took the man inside, out of the rain, sat him at my table, and gave him my biscuit and coffee. The waitress behind the counter had been watching me through the window and when we came in she brought us some towels to dry off. She also brought me some coffee and another biscuit.
"Who are you?" she asked.
I told her I was a student and a pastor. "What church do you preach at?" she asked. I told her. "I don't go to church." she said. "But lately I have been wanting to go. But for some reason I have been waiting. And now I know why. I want to go to your church. I want to know God the way you know God."
After that, things were different for me. I didn't worry so much about feeling in control, or feeling God's presence. I know now, deep down, that God is always in control and is always present, no matter how I feel or how hard I strive. I have quit trying to meet God on my own terms and in my own strength. I know God is with me. All I have to do is sit quietly and listen and then obey where he leads. You can never go wrong being where God wants you to be."
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