Monday, August 27, 2012

The God Who Sees-- On an Airplane

This past weekend, Michael and I flew to SC to celebrate my sister getting married. I'm sure as I continue to process the experience that I'll have a lot more to say about it. But what is freshest on my mind is actually the experience we had yesterday, on our journey home. 

First of all, we visited a church with my mom that is similar to the one we attend here in Dallas. When I went up to receive communion at this church, the priest-- who had never met me before-- stopped to pray for me. He said, "Lord, I thank you for Hannah and I pray that you would bless her. I sense that people will be drawn to YOU through her. Please bless that. Amen." 

It was short and sweet, and I thought relatively generic. A nice prayer for anyone to receive. After church, we headed to the airport. We had a three-flight route home (budget style, baby!) and I was really enjoying a book I brought with me. On the last flight of our trip, I thought I could knock out the rest of this book and was planning to focus on it. The guy sitting next to us kept chatting, though, and so I'd periodically look up from my book to answer his questions, to chat back. Eventually, though, I got the sense, "I need to be available to really engage with this guy. It's more important than finishing my book." 

So I put the book down and we began to talk a little more. He'd been asking Michael and me a lot of questions, so I decided to ask him one. "So do you like to read?" His eyes lit up. Jack pot. After bonding over our mutual love for words-- and lots of them-- he had another question for us. "I'm in a really weird place right now, where I feel like I don't know how to send out the right kind of message about who I am. How is it that you could perceive something about me and knew what question to ask?" 

A little while later, he clarified a bit more. "I feel like I don't know how to take down the walls I've put up around myself, and I don't know how to really show people who I am because I'm afraid. But the way you've been talking with me tonight makes me feel like you really see the "me" inside. How are you doing that?" 

We had already shared with him a bit from our own stories about how when we met Jesus, things changed for us. Michael had more of a dramatic conversion experience-- his world changed practically overnight-- whereas I learned how to live "filled up" (to use our new friend's words) slowly, over a long period of time. We had shared with him how we learned that God created us and thus knows better than anyone else what it is to "live to the fullest," and how our walking in relationship with Him through trusting in Christ has changed the way we experience life for the better. We had shared with him that we know what it's like to put up walls to protect people from knowing who we really are, too, and how God's total forgiveness, acceptance, and delight for us in Christ is helping to melt the fears that made us put up walls in the first place.

But I didn't have a magic answer to his question. I didn't have a miraculous knowledge about his love for reading or about what was going on in his life, guiding me in which questions to ask him. But as we were talking, I did remember what the priest at church had prayed for me that same morning. So with that, I answered him, "I don't have x-ray eyes that can see the real you despite whatever walls you've put up. But I believe that God knows the real you, and that He cares for you. I think the sense of being known that you're attracted to right now through our conversation is really from Him, and that He wants you to know He knows the real you, and that He loves you. And I would encourage you to consider letting Him in to your struggle and letting Him heal you, because you weren't created to be able to heal yourself."

When we said goodbye, he told us, "I think our conversation was more than serendipitous." 

Why am I sharing this story? Because once again, I'm moved to tears at the heart of my God. That He loves us, enough to tell us so in very specific ways through complete strangers on airplanes! I don't know why the man next to us was so touched by our conversation, but I know that he was attracted-- not to us-- but to God through us. God, who knows he loves to read. Who sees the secret struggle of his inner life and speaks into it in unexpected ways. God, who doesn't greet him with shame but invites him into life. 

I'm moved that God would prepare me for that conversation through the prayer of another stranger, a priest at church, and nudge me to put down my book and really see the person-- the precious creation of God-- next to me. I'm moved that God would use me in even a small way to manifest His heart for another, and I'm moved that God would allow me to experience even one millionth of His love, knowledge, and delight in the person next to me on the airplane. 

Has God ever communicated to you something about His love or knowledge of your struggle through someone else? If so, what does that tell you about God? Have you ever thought God might delight in doing the same through you?


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