Stuff that really matters. Why do we strike up conversations with strangers anyway? Which ones are divine? (conversations, that is)
Sometimes when I fly, I seat my seat in the seat and quickly pull out a book to study or my laptop to write. But occasionally, things roll out differently . . . and I talk to my seatmates. (O the stories I have to tell and friendships I have made as a result!)
Such was the case on my connection from Houston to Raleigh, North Carolina one time. Seated between two fellows, we talked; we talked about God, we talked about faith and where each was in his life. Because we were all strangers, we three were open and honest; after all, we would never see each other again. I asked - they answered ... I listened and there was a hint of the divine in the air.
After some time, my new friend in the window seat told me his 22-year-old step son had just died from an overdose. 'Oh, no. I'm so sorry. How in the world is your wife holding up?!' Mind you, they have three more sons at home. Mama has to keep going for them ... and because I do what I do (leading and loving women in a community and pastoring in the corporate world), I just kept thinking, 'who are her people?' I mean really, how does a mother who still has to care for a five-year-old button her own shirt straight, let alone her little guy's shirt, even as her heart continues to break into pieces?! Hmmm.
Before deplaning I prayed with the aisle fellow that he and his wife would be able to have a much longed-for baby, and then gave the one who was grieving my business card, hoping to offer encouragement to his wife, should she be willing. I really didn't expect to hear from her.
But then ... the text message came. The mama asked if we could meet, and so we did, at a quaint little coffee spot in downtown Wake Forest. I loved "Amber"1 in an instant. My heart swelled as I know that our Father's heart has as well, as he longs to hold her in his arms and give her the only comfort that brings true peace - in him and his love for her.
Once again at that place:
the phone call comes and nothing will ever be the same,
when nothing seems to make sense,
seems like it never will again.
I can only offer what I know and have experienced: the peace of God.
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."2
We talked a while, shared a lot, and agreed to stay in contact.
When Amber left, I went up to pay for my coffee and the store owner confided she had a lot in common with the grieving mama. Quietly I said, 'I'm sorry for your pain.' She leaned over and kinda whispered to me 'But my boy is still living ... addicted to heroin.' She looked from side to side, 'See no one knows; they do not understand, and they're awfully judgmental around here.' Oh, such heartache.
As she handed me change for my twenty, I looked into her hurting eyes. Knowing there is nothing more I could offer at that moment, I asked if I could pray for her boy. And so we held hands at the register and I prayed for her and her son; prayed that God would step into his path and that God would comfort her and grant her wisdom and peace.
As I type, I think of the heavy weight and strain 'Diane'3 is carrying as the mother of an out-of-control addict . . . the worry, the fear, the shame that is always present. To whom does she turn? Who will understand? Who will offer compassion, not judgment? And even more importantly, who will lend her their faith so Diane (or someone like her) has hope?
Prayer matters. Prayer is reaching out to our holy, powerful God and asking him to move on our behalf, or for another. Again, Paul said, "be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6.18
I can only offer what has made the difference in my life.
Here it is, Friend, at least, a start - of what I know is tried and true:
->I start each morning talking with God
**I do this in writing in a slim journal - present with my pen, in the form of a prayer from the contents of what is churning in my heart and mind. Getting it out of my head is really beneficial; it moves it from the subjective to the objective.
->ask God for his comfort because he brings peace
->ask to make his presence known to you
->ask God for his wisdom; he promises to supply it.4
--->ask him to come and do what only he can do--in your life or in another's
Our God is alive! He hears and answers our prayers.
These were just a few encounters in a world of people who pass by us, ring up our groceries or sit next to us on the soccer bleachers. Don't rush by, lend some compassion, an offer of help, and certainly when you can, offer them God's peace by praying for them.
Pray regularly for those who need God's mercy in their lives in some fashion, won't you? What a gift it is to those who are hospitalized or living far away that a faithful person is carrying them to God in prayer! Truly, there is nothing greater that you could give.
"Our Prayer" Rend Collective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_e3jB7tF8s
1 - Amber - not her real name 2 - John 14.27 3 - Diane - not her real name 4 - James 1.5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.