Arms crossed, eyebrows scrunched, customers in the Verizon store stood waiting and watching for their name to come across the ‘next-to-be-served’ screen hanging over head. Getting a new phone is an exciting day for many Americans and even though the in-store experience is often more like the post office, the DMV or welfare office, we endure the long waits and confusing contracts for the glitzy, buzzy phone we get in the end. Now, I believe that God is in the small stuff of life-in traffic jams and bad service at restaurants; God is in power outages, basement floods, and emergency trips to the vet for our pets. God shows up in the mundane and inconvenient places of life. Don’t get me wrong, God is in the small GOOD stuff of life too-in the smell of elephant ears at amusement parks, in slow strolls on the beach or woods, and definitely in the roar of the crowd at a baseball game-particularly when the Detroit Tigers are winning! There is something special, however, in the inconvenient places, the frustrating places, the places of furrowed brows. In these places, if would RAISE our expectations instead of folding our arms with the rest of the world, I believe we would see God at work. When we have the belief that God is present and working all around us, particularly in the regular stuff of life, we can find ourselves stepping into people’s story and into the very mission of God.
“Moore,” shouted Aaron. “Here!” I immediately responded, raising my hand like a nervous schoolboy. My Verizon rep was winsome and talkative and immediately took my mind off of the fact that I had just stood for 30 minutes for my name to come across the screen. I felt like I was the center of his world in less than 30 seconds. As we discussed my ‘contractual options’ and my device preferences, Aaron tapped away on his tablet, punching numbers and dates into forms before wizzing his device around for me to sign the next 2 years of my life away with a swipe of my finger. As we stood setting up my new, shiney buzzy phone, Aaron talked about his live-in girlfriend, their first child which was due in a month, and his apprehension of being a first-time dad-and there it was. Blinking brighter than my name on the next-to-be-served monitor-God’s open door! You see, in the regular stuff of life, God almost always makes a clear invitation to us to connect with people where they are at. People talk about all kinds of things-grandchildren, passions and hobbies, struggles and hopes-these are all touch points where God can work (and almost always does). The work of evangelism is mostly about recognizing the touch points of people’s lives and having the courage to step into their story with the hope of Jesus.
Capitalizing on Aaron’s touch point of apprehension and responsibility, I asked one question that took us on a 4 week journey, “So what is it about being a dad that makes you nervous?” Aaron’s response was surprising. The floodgates opened as if it was his first time to process this life-transition. “Well, I don’t know how to be there for my boy like I should; I don’t know how to be there for my girlfriend as she goes through this; I don’t know what is going to have to change and what I’ll need to give up, and; I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” Aaron’s honesty surprised me but using this open door, I pressed forward, “You know, it is alright not to have all the answers. Life is complicated and you learn along the way,” continuing, I added, “What I do know, Aaron, is that all the answers you need start with a relationship with God. Being a father and having right relationships with the important people in your life is possible when you are following God’s direction-does this make sense?” I asked. Aaron responded with even more surprising honesty. “It is really funny you came in today. I haven’t thought about God in years until this week as I’ve been thinking about my baby. I even prayed and then you came in!”
Aaron represents most people. I believe that God is at work in people’s lives, using their circumstances to draw them to Himself and into His great mission. Watching, waiting, listening and then acting with courage to step into people’s story is what evangelism is all about. Stepping into people’s story starts when we take that first step of courage, capitalizing on the obvious touch points where their lives connect with God’s missional activity. The invitation is brighter than our names blinking on the ‘next-in-line’ monitor. When we have an expectation that God is in the small stuff of life, we find that God routinely opens doors for us to step into people’s stories. Stepping into a person’s story can be life-changing for them and for us. As Aaron continued to share, I continued to respond-sharing more and more of the gospel story. The Verizon lobby was fuller than when we began our interaction and the furrowed brows were fixed on Aaron who was obviously getting emotional and taking WAY too long with me. I ended our initial conversation by saying, “I don’t think it is a coincidence that you prayed and now we’ve met and talked,” I continued, “I think God is calling you today to invite Him into the story of your life.” Aaron agreed as he stooped behind the counter as I led him in prayer. I had him pray to invite God into his story, to trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and ask God to begin to lead him in the right direction.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I had multiple conversations with Aaron. While I don’t believe Aaron is yet fully on board with Jesus or the mission of God, I do believe God is at work in a powerful way in his story. The last encounter with Aaron convinced me of this when he said, “You know, ever since you came into the store the first time, my life has gotten much worse-I can’t sleep at night, I’m having horrible, vivid dreams, my relationship is on the rocks, and I have even more fear and anxiety about the future.” I responded, “Great! Then it’s working!” Confused, Aaron asked what I meant. I explained, “You see, when we invite God into our story, things don’t usually get better-they get harder, more painful-more real. God loves us too much to come into our lives and leave the mess the way we’ve grown accustomed to. He begins to clean things up, changes things-change us!” I explained how God wanted him to be sexually pure, how God wanted to prepare him to be a man of integrity for his baby, to free him of the bondage he was in to ego and power. “You see, Aaron,” I continued, “God is at work in powerful ways and while you can’t see the big picture, God does and what He is doing is going to bless you in the end. You need to commit to your girlfriend, get married, get right with God and prepare for the road ahead. Those are all scary things but the great news is that God is in it all and I will be here for you too. You see, God is in the big stuff and the small and He will guide you.” Aaron agreed. Committing to more prayer and counsel and committing to reading God’s word, Aaron is on his way to a new story, a better story. God was always in the small stuff of his life but now God is in the story, working for the good of Aaron, his girlfriend and the precious child that started this new chapter in his life in the first place!