Last week I was sitting on the train, reading a book about the personality of Jesus. Fabulous, descriptive and moving, each new page seemed to offer a new richness to the earthly life of the God I love. I paused to put it down, letting the final words of the chapter sink in. At this point a man next to me spoke.
“A God book?”
“Yes,” I smiled. “It’s all about the life of Jesus. Really good…”
“Yeah, I saw the word Jesus pop out on a few of the pages…”
As it turned out, this man used to be a pastor at a church – so he was no stranger to Jesus. Or at least, before everything changed.
He told me his kids were still actively involved in church, but he and his wife don’t go anywhere now. They just gradually stopped attending. His work as a pastor involved long hours, and was draining emotionally. After finishing that job he moved into an administration role for a church, and as he clocked up more and more hours it became more about running an organisation and less about his relationship with God. He became disillusioned by processes and procedures. He is now working in senior management for a large company, spending the remainder of his time at the gym or surfing. The voice of God seems like a distant echo to him now.
“I used to be all about telling people they needed to come closer to God. Now it’s like I need the same reminder,” he reflected. “I know I could choose to be involved in church again, re-find God or whatever… but… I don’t know. Something was lost for me along the way… and life is just so busy now…”
I volunteered a couple of stories about my own troughs and peaks in my walk with Jesus… my own disappointments and disillusionments… and how God had worked in my life. But I think what he needed most was a listening ear.
As the train pulled into Central, I fumbled around for a parting comment.
“I really hope you find what you’re looking for…” I said.
“Yeah… I know what I’m looking for – that’s the thing. But I have to choose.”
Life can really take over can’t it?… pulling even the most committed of us in different directions. Our schedules become busier and busier – and we’re lost in the haze of past disappointments.
I’m so glad that my God is eternal and unchangeable. Even though I might turn away, or let the waves of life, or my disappointment with church or God or whatever it might be, dictate my decisions – he is still there. He waits patiently, and gently guides his redeemed children, such as me, back into his arms.
As I left the train, I prayed this man would discover God in a fresh way – that he would know that the Father’s arms were open to him, and that it really was safe to return…
“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” (Psalm 117:2)
This is just excellent. I don’t want to generalize, but the traditional American church can be so traditional and organized, and busy with this program and that, and stuck in a rut, and…. I absolutely know without a doubt that faith doesn’t need to be boring, and feeling like a chore that one must “do” all the time. Jesus was out amongst the people, He was involved, making a difference. It was exciting, unexpected, and He didn’t say, “Wait a sec, we’ve got a committee meeting tonight I’ve got to get to, don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to you…. can I pencil you in for next Tuesday?” Bah! Let’s have “church” outside on a beautiful day, and have the believers stand up and share their life, how God is working in it, or how they might feel He isn’t as a witness and encouragment to others. Gosh, wouldn’t that be refreshing??
Beautifully said, and I totally agree. Our view of God can be stifled by committee meetings, agendas, programs… yes, he can be alive in these too – but he can’t be put in a box! Totally… the life of Jesus, when you look at it, is relaxed, free and hugely purposeful at the same time. I think we could try and emulate him a bit more 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts!
That was definitely a God appointment for you! Good job on lending an ear to listen and showing your passion for God. It may just change the rest of the course of that man’s life. 🙂
Thanks Ana Bella. You’re right… pretty cool. I love it how God chooses to work 🙂
What a divine appointment, and I applaud your obedience in pointing this man in despair to the One who can revive and fill his cup. I applaud how you were discerning to know he need a ‘listening ear.’ I prayed for this man. When I read your entry Psalm 42 comes to mind. Especially verse 4 “These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. For I USED TO go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, and multitude keeping festival.” I’m praying for a revival in the heart of this man–we need lovers of Jesus preaching the Word, it’s not easy and we can all get caught up in the semantics and organization etc. and quench the Holy Spirit when we take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on others, or ourselves. Thank you for sharing this, I am so encouraged!
What an encouragement you are in return 🙂 Thank you for praying for him too… that’s a beautiful Psalm. May we all keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.. Bless you!
God works in most amazing and unexpected ways 🙂 It’s so wonderful that you were reading a book about Jesus and that man read along without you knowing, and that stroke a conversation that led to much deeper things. I’m sure it was all in God’s plan, and, you never know, it may just be the conversation He needed to take a step in the God direction again! Praise the Lord.
I pray that more opportunities will come by for you, and me, and all Christians, to be able to share about God when we least expect it to happen.
Thanks Shadow 🙂 It’s amazing how God works in unexpected and seemingly ‘random’ ways – yet it’s all in his plan hey.. It feels so good when it happens -that God can simply choose to use us when he sees fit, rather than it being something we force/plan or strategise… Good to hear from you Shadow 🙂
I’m so glad you prayed for that man and for recognizing the opportunity when it came!
Thanks – God’s amazing how he works hey.
Thank you for being available for God to use you to encourage this man. As a pastor I am fully aware of how challenging ministry can be. 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles and in America, 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month. I fell in love with Jesus before feeling called to ministry but being in ministry can bring a whole different kind of challenge to our walk with God. I recently blogged about the the risks pastors and their families face and our need to pray for and encourage them. http://ilifejourney.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/pastors-and-their-families-at-risk/ Thanks again for being God’s touch of grace and love for this man.
Thanks for this Rick, I’ll take a look. My husband recently became one, so we’re just starting this treacherous journey ourselves! It’s so good to be aware of the risks and to stay close to ‘the main thing’/ the heart of Jesus..