I beat around the bush and several variations of the same question. Inside, I was flipping through my to-do list, my physical fatigue, a lackluster Friday night, and the potential of the beautiful weather forecast in our local, natural wonderland. But all that escaped as a blurt, “I want Saturday to myself!”
“Okay, you can have it to yourself,” she responded. “Do what you want to do tomorrow.”
My real deal was this: my church was hosting a large men’s breakfast to introduce our “Big Brother” discipleship model to the rest of the men in our assembly. I would have to wake early on a Saturday and use all of my morning for other guys. What was left of the beautiful day would probably not be the writing, hiking, and napping that would help me escape my work week regrets.
I didn’t want to go. But Will and Stephen had asked me to lead a table, and several of my friends were gladly sacrificing their Saturday mornings to likewise serve. So, more than once on the way there, I prayed something along the lines of, “God, I’ve got to tell you: I don’t feel like this–don’t want to do this. You’re going to have to move in spite of me.”
The discussion given to me to lead centered on Peter’s life–the various stages and relationships he held with God. “Which one of these are you?” my table-leader cheat sheet helped me ask. Across the table from me, Barry told us that he’d been coming to church for four years but had never initiated a personal relationship with Jesus–just straight up said that . . . a spiritual softball! As an eclectic, sovereign collection of men, we engaged with Barry about his hangups and fears. Then we circled the table in prayer for him. Then, long story short: Barry pushed repentant surrender through sobs and sniffs. He started his eternal followship of Christ.
To push the irony, Bruce, a 35-year ministry leader pulled me close after this amazing encounter to say, “You were a great facilitator. You did a great job. You really drew these men out.”
I was blown away.
For the last year or two, I’ve been surrounded with people coming to Christ at other tables. I’ve watched my friends illustrating great spiritual insight and the ability to wrangle discussions. Jealous of these, in both a good and a bad way, I’ve wished to be a part of a circle like my Saturday one. And the one morning all this seems to come together, I’m an unwilling participant. It strikes me as sovereign brilliance: God proved that this is all about him, that his “grace is made perfect through weakness.”
So, why would I download here the junk on my end of this deal? Why would I discount my role in something I’ve wanted for over a decade?
Well, it hit me at the breakfast table but in a new way this morning, as we parking guys circled to pre-pray our 45 minutes in the parking lot. We prayed for Barry and others like him rolling onto Blue Ridge asphalt. Big John and H, Superfly and Scott covered drivers and passengers in prayer. When it came to my finishing turn, the new words in my head were meant more for me, probably, than for my boys or even for God. “God, if you can do all that through an unwilling participant, what could you do through someone who embraced what you are doing?”
Even more, man. Even more.