Let me back up. Yesterday was one of those rough Sunday mornings for me. I wasn’t overly thrilled with my sermon. And afterward, despite hours and hours of prep, I could objectively say it was a ‘C’ sermon. Not awful. Just average.
My wife and I had to leave church shortly after services concluded (which pains me because I like spending as much time with my church family as possible) because the fetching Mrs. Norman had to go to job training as an intervention teacher.
While she was there I did some errands, went back home to drop off groceries and turned right back around to go pick her up.
As I sat in the school parking lot (way too early for the pick up) I saw an older man laboriously shoveling out his driveway. I didn’t give it much thought (plenty of people were out shoveling) and fiddled around with my phone wondering why I hadn’t brought a book to read. I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes. I was exhausted. I had spent most of Friday doing some maintenance on the church building. I spend a number of hours helping a church member move on Saturday. And preaching is completely and utterly draining. I was done and wondering why I told my wife I would pick her up. All I wanted to do was sleep.
Then God spoke to me through his still, small voice, Go help that man.
“I’m exhausted.” I said in the quiet of my own thoughts. “And how do I even know that you’re really telling me to go help him?”
Go help him. The still voice said again.
“No, Lord.” I said.
Can you really tell your Lord, no? The voice said again (knowing full-well that my theological training would instantly understand “lord” to mean “master” and one to whom another submits to and obeys.)
“Yes.” I actually said out loud.
I sat in the car. The still voice stopped.
“Fine.” I said out loud again to my master.
I walked up to this older gentleman, who was out of breath, and I asked him if I could help him shovel. He said no. He was almost ready to go inside for a break. Seriously, Lord? (Those italic thoughts were definitely mine . . . not God’s.)
I was unsure what to do, and the man started talking. So I listened. He talked about the snow plow trucks, World War II history, his adoption, the cost of living, the cost of food, gas prices, weather, global warming, global cooling and a few other things I probably missed. When I found a gap in the conversation, I picked up a shovel and started clearing his sidewalk. My muscles ached from all the heavy-lifting I’d done on Saturday. But I moved the snow, and my new friend kept talking, but now more about himself, his life and his struggles.
After about eight minutes of shoveling he walked up, grabbed my shovel and said, “I’m done for now. Do you want to come inside for a cup of coffee?”
I don’t think a stranger has ever invited me into their home for coffee before. That sort of thing has died from our culture. So, a product of the culture, I thought a brief prayer Lord, I’m going in, I hope you didn’t bring me here to get murdered.
I was inside his house for about fifteen minutes. Our conversation dipped into some deeper areas, but was mostly superficial.
Then my wife called and my new friend walked me out. When we shook hands he didn’t say “thanks for the help” or “thanks for shoveling the walkway.” No. Instead, he said something very bizarre. He said, “Thank you for the conversation.”
Conversation. I wasn’t there to help him shovel at all. I was called there for something more basic, more fundamental: Human Interaction.
Here was someone who needed something so much so that he thanked me for it.
And so, the Scripture from my mediocre sermon came back to convict me: “All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one” not the believers, not the unbelievers, not the church grandmas, not even the pastors (Psalm 14). We . . . I need to call out to Jesus wherever I go because the depths of my selfishness knows no end apart from Him.