Monday, March 28, 2005

When You Least Expect It

It had been another long Saturday night. "Marjorie" had barely gotten any sleep again. It was becoming a habit. She laid there and worried about her son, "Brian". It had been days since they had heard from him. Brian had been into all sorts of nasty habits and Marjorie could only imagine his fate. She and her husband "Steve" had tried to cope in their own ways, but nothing was solving the problem. Things only seemed to be spinning farther and farther out of control. And after weeks and weeks of fearing for Brian's safety and wondering where he could be, Marjorie was at her wits end.

As she came downstairs that Sunday morning, She told Steve and her other child, "I can't take it anymore! It's like I've been pushed down and someone won't let me up no matter how hard I struggle. I give up. I'm saying 'Uncle'. I don't know what to do." Her head hung dejectedly as the tears started to flow again.

But today there was no time for any deep soul searching. The family had to travel two hours to attend a baby dedication at a little church up north. The whole extended family would be there, so they couldn't miss it. And they were running short on time, so they got dressed and got in the car for the long, silent journey. Marjorie wondered what they were even doing, going to a church service today. The family had been ignoring anything spiritual for a few years now. The pressures of the world seemed to need more time than God. Besides, was God really real? After these past few months, Marjorie had her doubts.

The family made it to church in the nick of time. A few of the family asked about Brian, but Marjorie didn't want to get into it. Not right now. Besides, the morning was supposed to be about the eleven month-old boy being dedicated. They found their seats, but it wasn't easy. The sanctuary was packed. Marjorie and Steve looked around and realized that about half the crowd were their relatives. The whole family had turned out.

The little country church service was quaint. The dedication itself was lovely. Then the pastor began the sermon. As Marjorie settled in, she found herself unprepared for what that preacher was going to say.

The first words of the sermon formed a question: "What do you do when life has knocked you to the ground?" A chill went up Marjorie's back.

"What should you do when it seems like no matter what you do, you can't pull yourself up again?" The words she had spoken that morning in the kitchen came flooding back. She thought to herself what she had decided to do -- say "uncle".

The pastor continued, "When it feels like God has pinned you down, you have to say..." Marjorie mouthed the word along with the pastor. "Uncle."

Marjorie was shaking slightly as she listened. The pastor preached about the early believers in the book of Acts and how they had understood that God had the power, not them. The early Christians weren't trying to do things by their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. All of a sudden, things began to make sense.

When they got back home, Marjorie spent the evening in prayer. She decided that since she was being held down and that all the power was in God's hands then she had better give it to Him. She prayed that they would be able to find Brian. She prayed that she would be strong enough to let God handle the heavy lifting.

The next day, Steve and Marjorie received a phone call. It was from the local police. They had found Brian and were holding him at the jail. Marjorie cried. It was a mixture of relief, joy and pain. But they had found their son.

Over the next few months, things began to change. The family went back to church to become reaquainted with the One who holds the power. Brian was diagnosed with both schitzophrenia and bipolar disorder and was put on medication which has helped him tremendously. In time, Steve and Marjorie became more active in their faith and in their church. It has been six years since Marjorie heard those words coming from the pulpit. It was the answer she had been looking for, received when she least expected it.

I met "Marjorie" last Friday at a funeral home visitation. It turns out that I had met her once before -- about six years ago.
You see, it turns out that I was that pastor who unknowingly spoke those words which would change the life of a family forever. I had been oblivious to the whole situation. I remember that service because it was the largest crowd we've had at that church. I even have a faint memory of a woman speaking to me after the service about saying "uncle" but beyond that I remember nothing else. I checked my sermon notes from that Sunday six years ago, and what she said was true. God changes lives.
I share this with you today for two reasons. One, if you are wondering if God really cares and if He can really help you, I'm here to say that He does and He can. And when you say "uncle" you could find that help right where you least expect it. And two, I share this with those of you who have been faithful in your walk and in your witness, but you just haven't seen the fruit. Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not there. Sometime you may see the results of your efforts. . . when you least expect it.

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