I was pretty frustrated today.
Today was the day my daughter’s and I were supposed to decorate D-Town. Each year, about one hundred people hang the city’s Christmas decorations along Corpus Christi’s downtown streets. It’s fun to meet new people, work with friends, and contribute to our community.
But we didn’t get to do it this year.
Instead, late last night an employee called to say something had happened and no one was available to open Keva in the morning. So, guess who got to fill-in. . . me!
The drizzly, cold (by south Texas standards) day meant there were few customers; only 4 in the first 2 hours. I was wasting my time. . . until “Stan” came in.
Stan is a semi-regular customer. “How’s it going today, Stan?”
“Oh, okay, I guess.”
“That doesn’t sound to convincing,” I said.
“Oh, my girlfriend and I are having some trouble. . . . What do you have that will help with a bad hangover?” Stan asked.
As I mixed his smoothie, Stan went to the restroom, where he spent way too much time. I had images of him being sick all over the store’s restroom, or worse, him attempting suicide at Keva Juice. I could just read those headlines!!!
Eventually, though, he came out and we began to talk. We talked about how demanding his girlfriend was. We talked about how the bouncer threw him out of the bar last night because he was out of control. We talked about how people misjudged him because of his shaved head, tattoos, gold chains, torn jeans, and “wife-beater” undershirts.
All the while, I kept wondering and praying. Would there come a time to mention God? If so, how should I do it? Do I tell Stan I’m an occasional preacher in my other life? (I hate doing that. When people hear I work for a church their walls immediately go up). Then Stan said something almost in passing that caught my attention, “I’ve always believed God has something more for me than this.”
The door was wide open. I didn’t have to force the conversation; Stan made it easy. He was a seeker in the true sense. He was looking for something more from life and “somehow,” through some “quirk” of “circumstances” he knew God had something to do with it. “Somehow,” through some “quirk” of “circumstances” God brought Stan and I together at this very moment.
In his book, Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson imagines that in heaven there is a group of angels whose job it is to arrange divine appointments. If so, their conversation must have sounded something like this:
Ok, how can we bring Dan and Stan together? Stan is 23 and Dan is 43. Stan is a mechanic and Dan is a preacher and business owner. Stan is single; Dan is married with kids. They don’t know any of the same people, live in the same neighborhood, or share anything else in common. . . . Why don’t we set it up so that on November 21, 2008 Stan and his girlfriend have a fight. This will cause Stan to spend time with his friends at a bar. He’ll drink too much, get thrown out, and end up with a wicked hangover. While that’s going on, we’ll mess with Dan’s employee’s schedule so she can’t work the next morning. We’ll make sure his other employees can’t fill-in for her so he’ll have to work. Then, on the morning of December 22, 2008, we’ll cause Stan to want a smoothie to help ease his hangover. Oh, yeah, let’s make sure the weather is damp and cool so there won’t be any other customers in the store so they can talk uninterrupted.
The divine appointment had been set. The arrangements had been made before time began. The angels were watching.
Sure, I had to say, “Mmm, Stan, you know that thing you said a minute ago about God? Let’s talk about that some more.” Sure, I had to encourage the conversation in the right direction; but Stan, the angels, and God had already done the hard work. All I had to do was step through the door that was opened for me.
Eventually, someone did come in the store. Our conversation ended and Stan left. But before he left he shook my hand. He said thanks and said he wanted to continue our conversation sometime soon.
I don’t know what will happen. I may never see Stan again or we may become best of friends. Tonight I’m praying for him. I’m praying that those angels have already arranged another divine appointment for Stan and me or for Stan and someone else who can pick up where I left off.
I’m not frustrated anymore.