Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)
I used to wonder how I, as a sinful and often disobedient Christian, could possibly be of any use to God. As is often the case, I was selling God short.
I began praying that God would help me do His will, expecting -- I don't know -- burning bushes or thunderbolts. Instead, I would get these subtle messages.
Typically, the first sign would be a sudden desire to do something unusual or out of character – usually something quite small. I would kind of roll my eyes as I did these tasks and say “OK, God, whatever,” then go on about my business. But sooner or later God’s plan would be revealed.
Here’s one example. I was at the Eva Perry Library to pick up a book that was on hold for my wife. I didn’t want or need a book myself and had no intention of even looking on the shelves. But my son, Parks, wandered off into the section of the library that had “inspirational” books.
As I was retrieving Parks, I noticed a book on the shelf (on display, not just the spine showing) by Christian musician Michael W. Smith. It happened that I was very much into Smith’s music at the time, so I picked it up. The book was called “It’s Time To Be Bold.”
I checked it out, figuring I’d read it during my lunch hours at work that week.
The book was interesting. It spoke of being willing to answer God’s call in our lives, even when such obedience might make us uncomfortable. I wasn’t quite sure how the book applied to me, but I took it as a blanket statement that I should be more open to being “used” by God and I prayed that He would find a way to do just that.
One day that week, as I was entering one of the buildings at work, a security guard hailed me with a friendly smile and said something that was a bit disconcerting: “You must be a Christian.”
I said, “Yes, how did you know that?”
And she said, “You’re always walking around with a smile on your face. And you got that fish on the back of your car.”
We both laughed and I went on my way.
The next day, I was leaving another building after lunch, book in hand, and the guard (Evangeline was her name) had been relocated there.
I waved and smiled, ready to hurry back to work. But she stopped me, saying, “I’ve got to ask you something.”
I paused by the guard station and listened as Evangeline (her friends call her Eva) told me about how she had taken this job because she needed the money, but she felt God was calling her to go back to school and teach children.
And there I was with “It’s Time to be Bold” tucked under my arm, wondering why God had led me to that book on that bookshelf in that library.
I smiled, held out the book and said, “Maybe this is for you.”
As I nonchalantly held it out, I was surprised by her response. She didn’t immediately take it from my hands, rather tilted her head and examined it. And her eyes were riveted not on the book’s title, but on the back cover.
She looked at me incredulously and said, “How did you know to put my name on it?”
I looked, and on the back was a large white label with the bold, black letters -- EVA.
The Eva Perry Library puts that sticker on the back of every one of its books to help with inventory in case a book is dropped off at a different branch. But this label, this time, meant much more.
Evangeline got her own copy of the book. Apparently the message resonated with her, because the next time I saw her she said she was going back to school and gave me a big hug.
When you look at something God is doing, it is very hard to see the “big picture.” In fact, the picture keeps growing.
Michael W. Smith said he was inspired to write “It’s Time to be Bold” by a complete stranger who spoke to him at a party. The stranger said only that he felt God wanted him to deliver this message.
That message led to a book that fell into my hands and influenced a security guard to become a teacher. But it doesn’t end there.
Because now, Evangeline and I have a story to tell. And that story might lead others to open their hearts to God.