I sat alone in our Legacy worship center Saturday night and again early Sunday morning, asking God to do that thing he always does. Do something great, God. Manifest your Holy Spirit in this place. Move among your people. Convict us. Change us.
I’m begging God to do this thing. And I have in my mind exactly what it’s going to look like. I’m asking God to do something powerful, but I’m dictating to him how it needs to be done. I’m asking him to do very specific things in very particular ways. Mind you, I don’t realize this at the time. My prayers are holy. I believed I was having a wholly submissive conversation with my Lord. But, looking back, I see clearly that I was telling God how to do his job.
What I wanted to happen yesterday didn’t happen. Not even close.
A 19-year-old young man who’s been abandoned by his parents, living with his grandmother, battling health issues, and struggling to complete his high school education, came down to the front while we sang, “How sweet, how heavenly is the sight…” and told us he wanted to give his life to Christ in baptism. This young man who’s been coming to Legacy for almost a year now, walking nearly two miles to get here sometimes when he can’t get a ride, this young man who’s told some of us here that this is the only place in his life he’s ever felt accepted, this young man who’s overcome so much already in his few short years, tells the church today’s the day! A new day! Today he’s giving his life to his Lord! And I introduced him to the congregation. “Church, this is Jarrett!” Jarrett turned to face his new family. And smiled. Big. And when he came up out of the water he was smiling even bigger. He told Jason and Lance afterward, this is the happiest day of my life.
One of our dear sisters, Rebecca, came down to the front during that same song to ask the church to pray for her mother who’s having life-and-death stem-cell-transplant surgery later this month down in Houston. Their whole family is facing a “road marked with suffering” right now. There were tears in Rebecca’s eyes. There were tears in the eyes of everyone in the room who’s been down that same road with their own parents. Tears and hugs and prayers.
Rebecca’s son Taylor was sitting in the pew right behind us. Crying. He’s a sixth-grader. On either side of him were Drew and Tommy, two of his friends. Sixth graders. Boys. Loud. Rowdy. Funny. They think they’re cool. They pick on each other and everybody else all the time. And Drew and Tommy have their arms around Taylor. They’re patting his back and rubbing his shoulders. Holding him. Sabrina, a seventh grader two or three seats over is crying. She’s sitting by our Valerie who’s also got tears running down her cheeks. I turn around to talk to them about what’s happening. Sabrina tells me, “I can’t look at people crying, especially my friends. It makes me cry, too.” And I grabbed Sabrina and Valerie, right there over the pew, and I told them, this is what it looks like to bear one another’s burdens. We laugh and rejoice with each other when they’re laughing and rejoicing. And when they’re crying, we cry with them. That’s how we carry one another. This is exactly what we were talking about in the sermon. This is true intercession. This is burden-bearing. This is doing things together.
And then the Drake gets up to lead us in our table thoughts for the Lord’s Supper. And he starts rambling about baseball. He’s talking about double plays, 6-4-3. And he actually compares Ian Kinsler’s turn and jump and throw toward first with a runner barrelling down on him to our Lord’s sacrifice and death on the cross. The second baseman does the right thing by giving up his body, maybe his season, possibly his career. Like Jesus. And I’m thinking to myself how inappropriate this is. My word, this may be the most inappropriate thing that’s ever been said at our Lord’s table! How could the Drake dare to compare Christ’s holy death to what a baseball player does every day? We’ll never have the Drake up there again. And then the Drake interrupts my judging by reminding us how neat it is to share this communion with our brand new brother. Jarrett’s still wet from his baptism. And because of God’s grace, Jarrett communes with us as we all commune with our risen Lord. The Drake begins to read Jesus’ words of institution. And he can’t make it through because he’s crying. And I saw the Drake’s heart. He showed us his heart. And I was convicted. And I was moved.
And then the nearly 83-year-old Candy Man gets up to make his annual Give Away Day announcement. And he spoke lovingly about those in our church family who’ve gone on before. Conrad. Aloma. Jo. He captivated everybody in the room with his passionate words that called us to remember what’s been handed down to us by those who’ve gone before. He even broke up a couple of times. It was a powerful reminder of what we are called to do as disciples of Jesus.
And when our time in the assembly was over, I was exhausted. And exhilarated. God did not do what I had asked him to do. He had done immeasurably more.
Why was I surprised?
Our God showed us yesterday in Jarrett’s head of uncombed hair that’s been dyed a few too many times and his well-worn Heath Ledger Joker t-shirt a clear image of what Jarrett “was” and, now, what Jarrett “is” by God in Christ. And we were all reminded that God is also making us into something much different than what we were when we first gave him our lives.
Our God showed us through Rebecca and Taylor how he cares for us and provides for us through his people. A visitor from Houston ran down the aisle as soon as we were finished and told Rebecca that his church will provide a place for Rebecca’s mom to stay during the four months she has to be in and out of M.D.Anderson. For all I know, God may have been orchestrating that “chance” meeting yesterday in our worship center for years.
God showed me in the Drake a man who has a firm grasp on the enormity of being saved by God’s grace. This is what it feels like for him. This is what it looks like and this is how he relates it to others. It’s real. And it’s strong. And it drives big and strong men to their knees in tears. Our God convicted us (me) in the middle of my judgment to see inside somebody’s heart. This is where God himself looks. This is where God makes his judgments. Not on what is said or done, but on the condition of a man’s heart. And when I saw the Drake’s heart, my attitude changed. My mind and my logic was rocked.
And through Coleman, our God reminded us that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves and our time. My prayers earlier had been for a specific moment on a specific day. And God answered those prayers by showing me that his view is much larger. This wonderful body of believers at Legacy was working for God and being moved by God long before I arrived on the scene. In fact, it’s their lives of faith by his mercy that have me on this scene at all. And this body will be working for our Lord and doing beautiful things for each other and for this community long after I’m gone.
We spent 30-minutes in our staff meeting this morning just reflecting on all the powerful things that happened in our assembly yesterday. We had all, at some point yesterday, been moved to tears by something somebody said, or a song that was sung, or something somebody did. Everyone one of us yesterday had been moved to hug someone we hadn’t hugged in a long time.
God didn’t do what I had asked him to do yesterday. He did immeasurably more. Why am I surprised?