It felt like we skipped spring this year, the late snows continuing to come… to dump on us, truth be told. So, you can imagine how refreshing it was when the warm sun finally did come, and when it came unaccompanied by the cold, biting winds that regrettably mark our springs here in Colorado. It was on such a day, one of the first of the late spring/early summer season, that I met him.
I was hired that Saturday to take a young girl I knew to an event. It was a fund raiser/community service event at a community park/lake for her cheer squad far on the other side of Denver from where I lived. There was a Starbucks across the street from the lake. Perfect! I went there to catch up on some work and wait for her event to finish so I could take her home. I got my iced coffee and went outside to soak in some sunshine and catch up on letters and paperwork, avoiding the articles I really needed to write. But, it’s hard to see the computer in the full sun and it seemed such a shame to waste such a beautiful morning of sunshine (especially when it had been so long coming)… and I’m a procrastinator as most all writers seem to be. I was, however, determined to be productive at something anyway, so I pulled out books and papers and letters and my Bible and journal. (I’m ridiculously optimistic about all I can get done in a short two hour span!) I was just getting all settled, legs propped up in the sun on another chair, writing a few notes… when it happened.
Truthfully, it happens a lot, mostly when I’m determined to finally get some work done… Someone interrupts.
“It’s so peaceful out, isn’t it?!?!”
It was coming from the table behind me to the right. A sweet man, maybe twenty years my senior with a gentle face, full of kindness and light. I should have just agreed with him. But instead, my snarkier nature took over.
“Yes, it’s so peaceful… with the cars rushing by and the construction and jack hammers going next to us…” I said it good-naturedly enough, I wasn’t being mean or negative. It’s just that something about his comment actually really touched me.
Perspective. It was all about perspective. It was true, jack hammers were blaring along with all manner of dust and construction next door and right in front of us was a ridiculously busy road. But here was this older man, sitting in utter peace and tranquility in the midst of all this turmoil, and all he saw was the peace of the pond across the street and the warmth and beauty of the sun on a perfect Saturday morning.
I didn’t mean to disparage his comment about what a peaceful day it was, but rather to draw attention to his beautiful ability to find peace in the midst of chaos.
We talked about the quiet in the country where I am living at the moment. It is truly peaceful where I live, but the thing is, anyone can find peace there in the peace and quiet. His was a gift…to see it in the middle of the chaos.
It was then that I noticed a Bible sitting on his desk. “Oh, what are you reading?!” I eagerly asked. “Isaiah?! That’s my favorite book in the Bible!!!”
We spent the next two hours talking. Typical me, I was reluctant for an hour and a half of it… standing by his table, talking…refusing to sit because, “If I sit, I’ll stay and I won’t get back to my work.” This is me. All the time. Reluctant to admit what God is really doing, holding on to my agenda, thinking I’m being “responsible” by doing so. In the end, I finally acknowledged the reality that I wasn’t going to get a thing done on my “list.” So I sat down with him and entered in, completely, to this crazy conversation about our pasts, testimonies, things God has, was and is doing in our lives.
I was electrified by the conversation. He was tenderized. I got motivated and inspired and excited. He got teary. I dare say we both got what we needed, though. I know, because I saw it in him, and because he said so, that God used me to touch him that day. I know that I did, (or God did through me, to be more exact), but I don’t really understand how or why. Why did my chatter about my life and journey impact him??? I don’t know. I don’t know what God was doing in his heart, but I know God WAS doing something in his heart, and that’s enough for me.
I’m convinced that most of the time God doesn’t let me know how I’m being used until much after the fact in order to keep me humble. I so long to be used, but if I knew it was working, if I had confidence that I knew how God was using me, I wouldn’t tread lightly or humbly…instead, I’d charge in with all the sensitivity of a rhino. (Some would say I do that anyway!) I know God’s not a God of confusion, but I dare say He allows some of it in me to keep me reigned in a little.
As for myself, I can tell you what Peter was doing for me. He spoke life into me. He encouraged me. He said things to me that I desperately needed to hear from someone, but he had no idea he was saying them. That’s how it is so often, God uses us to say something that seems so obvious and inconsequential to us, but to the person hearing it, it’s speaking right to their needs, their wounds, their longings. Peter did all those things for me, but perhaps the thing he did most was just demonstrate his sweet ability to see peace and beauty in the midst of chaos. It was the gift of his perspective. And the more we talked, the more I saw that he did that in every area and circumstance of his life. In every distraction, every problem, every struggle and circumstance, he only saw God and promise and possibility and love and hope…and peace.
*** A Brief Afterword (for those who are curious) ***
It’s been a few weeks since that day by the lake. If I never heard from him again, I would not have forgotten him, but it’s been so much better than that. This dear man became my brother that day, my brother in Christ and fellow soldier and dear friend. He has been a constant source of prayer and encouragement. He’s someone I know I can go to with anything. A prayer warrior, a supporter, an encourager, a true friend. Only God can do that in a few short hours on a Saturday morning on the other side of town like that.
Peter is dreaming of building a shelter/rehab center, (something I have been increasingly passionate about myself). And I long to help tell the stories of what God is doing in our midst… It is my hope and desire that, God willing, we will work together somehow… supporting each other in these callings. I may tell his testimony someday… and maybe even the stories of what God does in his ministry. For now, as these things are percolating, we are praying and encouraging each other… and maybe grabbing a coffee tomorrow.