In the middle of your day, God may want to speak. To the person next to you. A story of opportunities.
Sometimes we find ourselves going to sleep all worn out and tense from the endless hours of crying, tired from the worries and anxieties of the day, lacking air to breathe and mind boggled at our next move. But with God, you can then wake up feeling refreshed, lightweight and free of yesterday’s battle, simply taking in the victory Jesus has given with a new strength.
Well, that was my morning. And what’s more, God confirmed His grace through my declaration for the day: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). His peace certainly surrounded me and filled me with such adrenaline and joy that it lasted all day.
Once I awoke and stepped out of the house, the cold 6AM air hit me under the dark sky that still waited for twilight. I took a deep breath and headed for the early, quiet Metro that assured me a seat.
Teaching English can be a daily mountain to conquer, but when your audience is adults, you find yourself merely climbing hills. My first lesson of the day was simple. Sixty minutes of both of us speaking in consecutive yawns and the odd stretch between speaking exercises.
Shortly after, I headed for the cafeteria where I prepared for my next class. The two hours filled up pretty quickly. Contentment still bubbled inside me, however, overflowing in love for Christ and in the unbelievable gratitude of how quickly He shifts my days and my spirit. As I thought about this, the sermon I heard the night before popped back into my mind. It talked of opportunities and how they lie in the very centre of difficulty. Opportunities to speak of Christ, share the gospel, spread His joy and love. But we need to pray not only that God opens our eyes to notice them but also for the courage to act on them.
Shortly after, I set my self up in the meeting room, ready for the next student: Carl. His energy always filled the room with a motivation to learn, a joy and positivity in his voice that I knew would make another one of these English lessons fly by.
When he entered the room, his great height still surprised me, even after all this time. His brown eyes made rapid contact with mine and his lips only lifted ever so slightly after his hello. His body slumped itself onto the chair; back hunched and eyebrows dropped.
I briefly glanced at the material for today. The tension in the air worried me however. My eyes shot back at him with a gentle smile.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
He shrug his shoulders. “In pain again.”
Immediately I remembered his long battle with his body, a shooting pain that starts in his lower back and transfers onto his thigh: fractured disks or something of the sort.
Slowly, the distress in his eyes started to spill all over the table as he shared his troubles and frustration with this pain and his many attempts at fixing it. My mind immediately connected with my heart’s desire to pray for him.
In that moment, I saw my opportunity. Now I just needed to take it.
He talked and talked, words over words filled with relief and gratitude that he could finally share his frustrations. I coughed a little, preparing myself to slot God in the conversation.
“I tried acupuncture, I’m even trying some type of healer my sister told me about next week—”
I thought of my next line as if given from above: perfectly aligned, subtle but attractive enough to raise a different type of conversation. Immediately, I puffed out my chest in pride of this line and said it, “Wow you know who’s a great healer?”
Unfortunately, so entranced in his own point, Carlo completely talked over my genius line. And with the low volume in my voice, he didn’t even flinch at the suggestion that I might've said something.
The subject quickly changed back and our discussion somehow veered away from the window, the door or even the smallest trickle of an opportunity I thought I had.
For a brief second, I sulked inside myself, all whilst trying to sound as enthusiastic about heteronyms as I possibly could. But the Spirit filled me with hope that there will be another chance.
And there sure was. The next time the window opened, I practically jumped out of it, making sure he had no chance of ignoring me.
The rest of the hour was somehow spent talking about Carlo's family background in the church and how he’d always believed in God. I shared with him my experiences and faith in God’s power of healing. I asked him bluntly, “Have you ever prayed about this?”
In this moment, he stopped and let out what seemed like a somewhat ironic breath. “You know what, in all the places I’ve visited to get help, the things I’ve tried, the people I’ve talked to, I think God is the one person I haven’t gone to yet.” His eyes were enlightened by this possibility.
I encouraged him to pray and told him how. Although initially worried about my job and reputation from him as my student in the possibility of a complaint: I said it. Instantly, this giant of a man who wore strength, confidence and power in his very bones, had turned into a little child. A small, innocent boy in search for his father. Someone lonely and afraid of the dark who was just told that if he asked, he could find the light.
“You just need to pray,” I smiled at him. “And if you want, I can pray for you. I love praying for people.”
“You do?” For some reason, he found this hard to believe because of his past in the Catholic Church and the usual dislike and shame people in his life had with praying for others.
“Absolutely. Have you ever had anyone pray for you before?" I asked. "Your family? Mum?”
Shortly after some more clarification and with the clock ticking away behind us, he straightened up.
“I’ll do it.” His voice rose with joy. “I ll pray tonight. And I’ll tell you what happened in our next class.”
I left him not with pride, but with such delight in knowing that God was about to receive a long-lost son back into his courts.
A lot of times we can feel like our faith and relationship with Christ is something that is deep within us, so deep in fact that we feel the need to hide it, to keep it a secret from the rest of the world and survive in it whilst ‘pretending to be one of them’.
Of course there’s always risk in how people take the Gospel and the truth of Jesus Christ. But what we seem to forget is that we are not like everyone else. We are not of it ("as it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19), we do not belong here, our home is above, in the marvellous light of Heaven, next to our enthroned righteous King. That is who we truly are. And that should always build a fire of desire in us to shout out what a wonder the world can find if they just looked for it.
Start slow. Each one of us has their own strengths. Maybe your strength isn’t to bring Jesus up in conversation yourself, but maybe it’s to talk about a relationship with Christ when someone mentions religion. Maybe your strength is to give so much kindness to someone that when they ask the long-standing question of ‘why?’, you tell them who your source of kindness is.
Whatever way that you are lead, listen to it. People may be more open to what you have to say than you expect. Of course, they won’t all walk away wanting to be saved. But your job isn’t to convince them. Your job is to tell them the Holy Truth. The rest is up to them. And God.
This isn’t a cult we’re trying to make people join or a registry list we’re trying to shove in their faces. This is eternal life. Imagine them when they stand before God and they see everything with their own eyes: angels, heaven and hell, Jesus. And then they see you standing at the gates of heaven. Are they going to think, ‘oh my goodness, they knew about this all along and never told me anything!’ or are they going to look at you in love and gratitude because you are the one that introduced them to believing what they can now live in for eternity?