I have a fun history of becoming friends with strangers. Early Saturday morning only added to this collection of moments.
This is how it went down.
Saturday morning was a heavy, exciting morning for me. I had lots on my mind and had a full day planned of seeking clarity from God about my life and future. I had planned a day trip to Baltimore to unwind and ask God to bring healthy, gospel churches to Baltimore that would bless the city. Baltimore is a city on my heart so I journey up there from time to time to feel the pulse of the people and culture.
After waking up well before my alarm and engaging Luke 22, where I lingered long over how easy it would be to reject Jesus and crucify Him if it were not for His grace, I wandered down to Annandale high school to run/walk around the track. It was about 6:45 am and I made it 1.25 laps around the track at a steady jogging pace. The Lord spoke so much to me about leadership in that lap and a quarter. Pace matters. Pace-setting matters. Leading people at a healthy pace that is doable for them should be engrained into the heart of every leader.
After my jog, I decided to walk around the track for a couple laps and considered getting back into a jog. But the moment I slowed down my pace I realized that I was approaching a young man that would probably become a friend. As I passed him, I made eye contact with him and asked him how he was doing. Which, I feel is against DC area stranger-engagement protocol. He was probably 13 and was apparently on an exercise program. His weight made it hard for him to move. I was impressed that he was out so early on a Saturday morning.
He began moving closer to me and engaged in conversation. As I continued to speak with him I realized that he was autistic. The night before, I had been in wal mart asking God to help me love people that no one else stops to love. I had numerous opportunities in wal mart that night to pray with people and demonstrate to them that Jesus loves them. But wouldn’t it be God to answer my pray further when I wasn’t looking for it. I have a habit of trying to display the fruits of the spirit in my life during planned moments. But the fruit is really tested when others decide to pick fruit from you at moments that you had not planned. This was one of those moments.
Engaging in conversation with Adrian, he asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I paused a moment as the Holy Spirit used that question prophetically to pierce my heart. Identity and calling have been the arenas in which I have been wrestling God with much focus and fervor of late. But as piercing as it was, I instantly knew the assurance that God knows. And in that moment, I knew that I knew. I didn’t have to pretend, or fit into someone’s theological or ecclesiological framework with my answer. So I answered Adrian’s question with a question; “do you know about Jesus, and did you know that He loves you?” Jesus’ love is the thing that defines me, and spreading a passion for Him by proclaiming the love that He demonstrates will be the definitive work of my life. Adrian looked at me and smiled. He responded, “are we friends?” Again, feeling pierced to the heart. What more could I want in life but to extend friendship to people out of the friendship that the Father has extended to me? I told Adrian that we are now friends. He then asked me, “you’re not a stranger right?” I assured him that while I was once a stranger, we are now friends. But in the back of my mind I expected the executive branch of the government to show up and be like; what the eff dude? Wrestling the tension of a potential lawsuit, and inadvertently conditioning this young man to trust any stranger, I tried to make clear that I personally will be his friend. He continued to regurgitate every rule that his parents had laid out for him regarding interaction with strangers, but we both knew that we wanted to be friends.
He finally settled on the fact that I was his friend, and when his parents showed up, he exclaimed to them that I was not a stranger but a friend. My conversation with Adrian was eye-opening. True friendship invades the walls that we have built up. True friendship surprises us. True friendship is desired in our hearts. True friendship happens with willingness, clear communication, and time.
But that’s not the best part.
After a long day, I came home. As I was walking up to my room I was hit hard by the reality that my conversation with Adrian profoundly reflected my relationship with God the Father the last few months. And I definitively knew God was saying to me – we are friends. Even now, I want to weep tears of joy.
The root of my ontological battle has been that I was not convinced that God was for me. I had let myself believe a lie, that God was working his will in me, without giving me relationship. While I knew theologically that I was adopted into the family of God and sealed by the blood of Jesus the truth had not sunk into my heart to the point that my concerns were flooded by that truth.
We can be sure that because of Jesus, the Father looks favorably towards us. And knowing that we are friends with God, means that we can engage in relationship with Him.
“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” – Isaiah 41:13
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
I am definitively assured that God is my friend. Friend, God is for you.
For the #joysetbeforeme