When Kyra and I entered Chipotle today for lunch my eyes fell on a man sitting by himself on the other side of the restaurant. As soon as I laid eyes on him I felt a pressing on my spirit that urged me to go talk to him. I was incredibly nervous for some reason and suppressed this feeling, trying to block it out by studying for my cell biology lab practical exam. Each time that I tried to read the words on the pages I was reminded of the man. I felt the Lord convict me: Is this exam really more important than he is? Frustrated and nervous I continued to act as though it really wasn’t that necessary that I talk to him. I’ll probably get rejected anyways, I told myself. The enemy was trying his hardest to convince me that it wasn’t important or that I would simply get rejected. By the time Brent showed up to the restaurant I knew that I needed to go talk to the man. I confessed to Brent and Kyra what I felt like the Lord was asking of me, but I was still nervous. Brent began sharing a story and, as I was listening, I turned my head to make sure the man was still there. I watched him pick up a napkin as if he were wiping down the table in preparation to leave and I immediately leapt up, full of conviction, and nearly ran over to his table, sat down, and introduced myself. I felt very strongly like the Lord had asked me to tell him how much he is loved by God. The first thing he asked me was, “What else did He say?”
This question caught me completely off-guard, as I don’t get asked that often. Stuttering I responded, “Uhm - I dunno. I feel like He told me that He loves you, and I feel like He wanted me to come tell you that.”
“Oh yeah? What else did He tell you?,” the man asked again.
Stumped once more I tried to recall what the Lord had told me right before the part about Him loving the man. I was then reminded that I had also planned to ask the man if he needed prayer.
“I feel like He wanted me to ask you if there was anything I could pray over you for,” I responded hesitantly but assuredly. Still unsatisfied, the man asked me, “What’s your life verse?” Before I could even find the verse that came to my mind he began to share a bit of his story with me.
“I’m actually a Christian — Well, that’s not wrong, but I’ve been questioning everything recently. Every day I get up and question God. I question His love for me, and I question if He’s even really here, among us, looking out for us. I don’t see Him in my everyday life, and I am struggling to believe that He’s really there.”
Pausing for a moment both to consider his words and to try to pay attention to what I felt like the Lord was bringing up in my own mind, I pondered before asking, “Do you feel as though you’ve ever had a relationship with the Lord?”
“I pray, but I don’t hear anything. I ask the Lord to tell me what to do and I hear nothing. I grew up as a Christian, but I feel like my whole life, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost my relationship with the Lord. I’ve read scripture and I’ve tried to pray. I used to be closer to God — I call Him Papí; I don’t know if you can do that, but I do — but as I’ve gotten older it’s gone away. I’ve pulled back. I’ve questioned it more and more. I doubt and question His love for me.”
“And that is all perfectly okay,” I replied. “I’ve been through degrees of that, myself, in which I’ve questioned His love for me. I’ve known that He loves me, but I used to really question whether I actually believe that He loves me. And I experienced some of that through my leadership team with InterVarsity. I used to think that I wasn’t contributing to leadership because I wasn’t hearing from the Lord all the same things that others were. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear anything relevant. But I then realized that it wasn’t at all because of the Lord not being present. It was because of me being distant and me caring too much about whether or not I could hear from the Lord. It mattered too much to me and I thought that my worth was dependent on that. Do you think you have an idea of how to hear from the Lord?”
“No,” he responded despondently.
I immediately attacked his hopelessness. “That’s okay! I didn’t know how to either until I was taught. Most people aren’t taught and they go their whole lives questioning how to hear from the Lord when, in reality, we’ve been hearing from Him our entire lives!”
There at Chipotle I ended up teaching him listening prayer. He was incredibly eager to learn and kept asking questions: How do I hear? How long do I wait after I pray aloud and ask Him to show me how He sees me?
I reminded him of the tips that Kennedy and Brent have both shared with me:
I also taught him a little bit about what ‘hearing’ from the Lord is like, describing how it can arise in our thoughts as a voice or a song or become present in the form of feelings, smells, memories, images, visions, etc. Too, I reminded him that the Lord has been speaking to us our whole lives in a voice that sounds like our own — our ‘conscience’. We’ve been guided by God for so long that His voice has become regularized and unfamiliar.
I asked the man if he wanted to practice listening for himself, and he agreed readily.
“Okay, this is what we’re going to do,” I instructed, “I’m going to pray over you and pray over the space and our time right now. When I’ve finished, I want you to ask God aloud to show you the way that He sees you. Whatever you see or hear or feel or smell — that’s God.”
“That’s God?,” he asked.
Confident and unhesitant I answered, “Yes. And remember that the next part will be you questioning whether it was Him.”
He was nervous, and I’d be lying if I said I weren’t nervous in that moment either. This stranger I sat down next to had been questioning God for the last who-knows-how-long. He’s been asking the Lord for answers to prayers and “receiving nothing” according to him. I VERY CONFIDENTLY just told him that the Lord was going to bring something up — what if He doesn’t? What if this is the thing that makes this man lose complete faith in the Lord?
Despite the lies of the enemy running through my mind, I laid my hand on my new friend’s shoulder and prayed. After I finished I gave him an nudge, indicating that it was his turn to ask the Lord to show him how He saw him and to ask the Lord to bring it up in that moment. I then waited for what seemed like forever. In reality, it was most likely for 30 seconds that I waited. And then I asked, “Well, did anything come up?”
He looked up, emotionless. “No,” he said. Disappointed, I was scrambling to find the words to say. His watering eyes told a different story though, and I was encouraged in my spirit that something had actually been brought up.
“It was something that has come up in the past,” he said. “The Lord told me that He sees me like Peter.” I grinned, for surely this would’ve been a good thing, an honor.
“As I read scriptures, Peter always seems so stupid. He always asks Jesus for proof, for more miracles. That’s what I feel like. I feel like I need proof, I need God to prove Himself to be in order for me to believe.” He was holding back tears, but I gave him a comforting, reassuring smile and nod, encouraging him to let himself cry. He then began to cry right there in Chipotle, unbothered by the surrounding bustle of customers and strangers.
“I think it’s really cool what you saw, especially if it’s something you’ve seen before. The Lord wants to remind you that He loves you and that He sees you as Peter. Peter was Jesus’ friend, His disciple! It’s not a bad thing to be like Peter. It’s not a bad thing to ask the Lord to prove Himself to you. I’ve done it several times. I’m actually on a full ride here at UNC Charlotte, and unfortunately that’s caused me to hold my academics as an idol in my life. When the Lord asked me to surrender them to Him, I couldn’t fully trust that He would be faithful over it. So I asked Him to prove it in a very specific way. And when He did it, that’s when I knew that He actually is really trustworthy over that thing. It’s okay to ask Him to prove Himself to us — we just have to be obedient after He does it.”
“You make a good point. That makes sense,” he enthusiastically and earnestly responded. As we continued to talk, new questions arose on his behalf about listening prayer and what he could do next. I encouraged the man to daily practice listening prayer for himself and for others, including his friend whose wife has just left him. I also encouraged him to be obedient about what he heard from the Lord and to share it with those for whom he listened.
“If the Lord brings something up,” I reassured, “You should be obedient and share with someone if it’s about them. The Lord is perfectly capable of getting to us without our help. The Lord didn’t need to use me to reach you — He would’ve reached you some other way if I hadn’t come over here. But He asked me to do it so that I would have the opportunity to grow closer to Him and see His glory through it.”
“I have a different perspective on it now,” he told me. “I feel like my prayers will actually mean something now that I know what to look for in a response.”
I was overwhelmed with joy. Throughout our entire conversation the man continued to remind me how impressed and shocked he was at my attunation and obedience to the Lord.
“I kept waiting for my friend to walk around the corner and joke with me or for a camera to be pushed in my face like on a tv show prank or for you to ask me for money. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. I didn’t believe it, and it’s still hard to believe that you came over here because of God. You’ve been a Christian your whole life, right?”
“Yes,” I replied, smiling. “I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but my relationship with Jesus has become increasingly more intensified in the last year or so. Ever since last August I’ve really been on fire for Jesus!”
“Do you think that’ll ever go away?,” he asked curiously.
I smiled and confidently responded, “No. I know it won’t. So long as I continue pursuing Him, the fire will remain.”
He smiled and just looked at me. “You’re an amazing woman, you know. I saw you when you walked in, but it was just an observation. I also saw you and your friend (Brent) look over here, and I wondered what was going on, but I didn’t think much of it. For you to be that obedient — that’s brave. And I thank you for that. You’ve helped me so much today. And the cool thing is this: not once did you tell me how wrong I was or how I shouldn’t be thinking the things I’ve been thinking or how I should be changing and doing things right instead of wrong. No, you’ve encouraged me. You’ve openly related to the things I’m going through, and not once did you put me down or tell me I was wrong. You’ve helped me understand what I can do instead, what I can do in order to grow closer to the Lord. But you’ve done it all in love and in kindness. You’re very special. Your spirit is special — you’ve allowed me to feel comfortable enough here at lunch in Chipotle that I wasn’t even paying attention to the people around me or what was happening around me. You created an environment in which I, a 40 year-old man, was comfortable enough to cry in public in front of all these people. I don’t even care. It wasn’t important. I didn’t even care what they thought because your spirit allowed me to be comforted and focused. That’s really cool. I just can’t thank you enough.”
Flattered and grateful that the Lord chose me to do that work, I bid my friend goodbye only after praying for him once more before we parted ways. In my prayer, I asked God for another encounter with the man. I confidently declared that we would meet again and that when we did, I wouldn’t recognize the man that I met in Chipotle because of how far he was running into the presence of the Lord. We left, our hearts both overflowing for different reasons and our spirits both refreshed and reassured.
I share this story to try to remind you that sometimes the Lord does ask us to take risks, to put our needs aside and die a tiny bit to ourselves, going out of our way to show people who Jesus is and what He means to us. The Lord allowed me to be a part of this man’s story, maybe even serving as proof that He is here and among us. I just pray daily that the man pursue the Lord, believing that a relationship with the Lord is just as accessible to him as it is to me.
1 Thess. 2:2
"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell His gospel in the face of strong opposition."