Tonight, I was circled up in the industrial kitchen in the back of the space where we meet for church, praying with a few brothers and sisters before service started. I kept having to remind myself to tune into the heart-felt prayers of those in the circle, but I was too distracted. I couldn't help myself wondering if Cody would make an appearance.
After a few minutes of dedicating the evening to Jesus, we exited the kitchen and trickled into our meeting space. Before I had time to fully scan the room I saw him.
Cody showed up.
I saw his motorized chair wheeling around the place and apparently he had been asking for me because when I approached him, folks seemed to know of our new friendship.
We caught up a bit as I introduced him to everyone I could find. He was preeeetty popular.
My good friend Steve and I cruised Cody around the rows of chairs as he looked for the perfect spot. He picked a spot dead-center in the front row. Bold, Cody. Youz a bold dude.
After we sang the opening songs ( which Cody certainly sang along with, in his own way), Trevor got on stage and started giving his beautiful sermon. I watched from the side, checking out how Cody was doing.
He was probably the loudest person in the room during the entire sermon. He said a few "Amen"s, gave Trev some good feedback on his anecdotes, and chirped in every time something resonated with him. In that way, it seemed like things were goin great.
On the other hand, tonight's sermon was about the death of Lazarus. When Jesus hears about his friend Lazarus on his death bed, he is deeply concerned, but doesn't head toward his home to heal him right away. He waits days, even. The majority of tonight's message centered around our inability to be patient as we wait on God to fulfill his promises. We pray for healing, for opportunity, for restoration, for all sorts of things... and although God is faithful, its most often not in a manner that matches our idea of good timing. The truth is that it IS always good timing, but in that waiting zone it can feel cruel and unusual, like God might not care as much as we're told.
As I sat watching Cody nod his head and make notes on his iPhone with his nose... All I could think about was how much I wish we had something that felt more tangible to tell him about his condition. I wish I could tell him something "better" than "God promises that one day He'll make everything right".
I know in my guts that when that day comes, I'll be shaking my head in recognition that there really ISN'T anything better. However, tonight, sitting a few feet away from a crippled man, all I could think about was how much I wish Trevor had been talking about.... just about ANYTHING else.
A paraplegic man comes to church for the first time and the message is about how we just... need to put our partially blind trust in God's timing in the midst of our suffering?
Seems like spooky poor timing.
Cody received prayer from the prayer team after the message and then went on his way, and wheeled himself all the way home before the last set of songs. I didn't even get the chance to say goodbye.
Maybe I'll see him again, I dunno.
But it feels so pertinent to tonights message that I'm struggling with God's timing.
Something peculiar happens when you invite someone to church for the first time and they show up. Maybe its just me, but I pay way more attention to each word of each song, prayer and most certainly, how the message might be hitting them.
The strangest part of my oversensitivity to this is that its almost like God purposefully plans things in a way that I wouldn't. Its like, every time I bring someone in for the first time everything from the songs to the sermon aren't the way I want them to be.
But I think that's because I forget who God is. I forget how this thing works.
God doesn't need the pastor to say the right things in order to reach my friends. God doesn't need me to sing the perfect song in a perfect way to move the hearts of the congregants. Sometimes I think he has everything seem wrong to illustrate how much He DOESN'T need it to be right.
We think so much depends on our performance! God most certainly uses us powerfully, but if we think for one second that this whole thing, this whole ministry, depends on our delivery... well... We'd be wrong.
We serve a Living God, who can do anything with anything at any time on any day. He does what He wants to. While that makes me slightly uncomfortable with how NOT in control I am, its also rather liberating.
As a famed Young Life speaker says it "God loves you way too much to put others' salvation on your shoulders". Now, do we stop preaching? No. Do we stop singing? No. Do we stop engaging others in conversation? No. We just quit worrying about screwing things up beyond God's ability to repair. ( That's impossible, see)
One of my favorite ways to illustrate this comes from a conversation I had with a few friends a couple of years ago . A group of old Young Life groupies got together over some breakfast and got to chatting about camp experiences we'd had over the years. It got to the point where we ended up talking about "Worst camps ever". We shared war stories and at one point, my friend Rachel started describing the worst camp she's ever seen. The skits and games were terrible, the speaker was cheesy, everything went wrong. As she was describing it I started to feel an eerie sense well up in me. "Uh, I was AT that camp", I said, " and I thought it was amazing. Best week of my life. I ended up giving my life to Christ that week!". She sank in her chair and we were all humbled, realizing that the God we serve is so much bigger and more powerful than what humans pull off.
He doesn't need us. He lets us in on his schemes, though, and we just get to be faithful to Him in the middle of it and enjoy the ride.
The seemingly poor timing of tonights message might just be a way God's reminding me that He's got this. God is mysterious and sometimes hard to trust but if there's one thing that He keeps teaching me its that He's always up to something.
Sometimes you have to just... give it time.
I don't think God wants me to worry about Cody ( or anything, am I right?). I think God wants me to trust Cody in His hands.
That's the plan for now. I hope to see him again, but I know the God of the universe is chasing him, and loves him more than I know.
Here's to Cody showing up, and God's strange but perfect timing.
Carly Calmes the First