I’ve gotten really bad about opening myself up for opportunities lately.
Two weeks ago, my preacher gave a sermon about Deo volente which means “God Willing.” His main point was that we should allow everything in our lives to be post-scripted with “Deo volente.”
Several years ago, my church went to Kadesh at ACU for, I think, the last time. That makes this story sound sort of ominous, like it’s going to end in tragedy that resulted in us never returning. Well, you’re right. There was a mountain lion involved, but that’s all I can say without the shellshock taking over. That’s not true. It’s a great program.
But we had an odd number of guys going, which meant one of us had to go potluck. There was one kid in particular that was left out of the pairings, so it seemed obvious that he was going to be the one to end up with a total stranger. But we also knew that kid got anxiety and was new to the youth group. Probably not the best move to hang him out to dry. So my best friend and I took the initiative to split up and I was the one who ended up getting the stranger.
I think his name was Austin or Houston, or some Texas city, but that’s not really the point. The point is that it was the best week of camp of my life. All the kids in the hall were potluck, so no one knew anyone else.
We all got to start from scratch. And I think we take that for granted a lot. Especially in a small dose like that, you can be as absolutely transparent with those people for 5 days as you want. And I think given that sort of freedom, we, as a people, are inclined to take that opportunity.
There was a kid who we nicknamed Moose, though I can’t remember why, and I still had his number in my phone when I was sorting through contacts a couple months ago. I ‘d never used his number, but it made me smile. Our group had gone to a park after our service project and then a special ed class from a local school or daycare came by that same park. We took the opportunity to play with those kids who had to be some of the most open and friendly children I’ve ever encountered. One boy was the blue Power Ranger, and I was the bad guy who had to get up every time I died so he could beat me again. It was great!
After that I always encouraged people to go potluck if they could. It made for a better experience and, though I didn’t know it yet, better stories.
But that’s the sort of thing I think my preacher was talking about in the context of Deo volente. It’s an open invitation. That’s scary. Because I truly think that week of camp was a matter of God’s will being done. The kids at the park, the counselor I had, Moose, all of it.
I left that sermon convicted, but not ready to step into action. No obstinate, mind you, just… I don’t know, maybe hopeless? I couldn’t think of what steps to take.
My brother, Kyle, had work that afternoon, so we were going to meet him at No Frill Grill for lunch. I told my parents I’d be a little late because I had to go to Lone Star (the local comic shop and my home away from home) to pick up this latest copy of Forever Evil because Forever Evil is selling like hotcakes and if I don’t find out what Lex Luthor is cooking up to stop Ultraman today then I might actually keel over and die.
So I walk in, pick up that copy (there was a stack of, like, 50 so my haste was embarrassingly unwarranted), as well as the new issue of All New X-Men because how am I going to pass up an issue with Cyclops kissing Wolverine’s female clone on the cover? In retrospect, when I say things like that, I can understand why people are offput by comic books.
I stand in line to check out. The line consists of one person, a young man also in his Sunday’s Best with an impressive stack of titles. The employee kept scanning the comics and he was sorting through the titles, trying to weigh which ones he truly wanted because, come to find out, he didn’t have the money for all of them.
Chris called me over to the other register. I’m on a first name basis with the comic shop employees, so if you suspected that I’m a local celebrity, I think that confirms it for you.
I never carry cash. It’s not on principle or anything, I just never make withdrawals, never win any bets, so cash is just elusive. But this was immediately after Christmas, so I had a single ten dollar bill in my wallet. Chris was asking me how school was going, and I was trying to articulate how to describe Greek to someone when I saw the bill in my wallet.
I never carry cash.
I have had to put comics away because of cost a time or two in my life.
And I think God puts you in the right place at the right time more often than we want to admit.
So I walk over and, in true Christmas Shoes fashion, I laid the money down (I just had to help him out). And let me tell you, I have never seen a guy’s face light up more than his. And I could take this time to tell you that giving is better than receiving and every other thing that you’re used to hearing with a story about generosity, but you’ve already heard it all, so I’ll save you the trouble.
“This never happens to me, man,” he kept saying. “I gotta go buy you lunch or something, man. This is crazy.” People think strangers hugging is awkward, but neither of us did, and he pulled me in. And when I left, he was just sitting in his truck, head on the steering wheel, and I like to think that maybe he was praying.
Hopefully you know that my point isn’t to showcase a good deed or my generosity or anything like that. But since that day, I feel like I’ve been more attuned to God showing me opportunities to make a difference.
I promise I’m not going to reference Donald Miller with every post, but in Blue Like Jazz, he has a section on generosity, specifically in the context of tithing. He didn’t used to tithe because it wasn’t in his budget. I don’t tithe typically for the same reason, as well as the aforementioned fact that I seldom carry cash. But what Donald ultimately learned and what I had shoved in my face that Sunday was that when you do decide to put your money forward, to give to something that you’re called to, God provides for you. Donald’s budget for everything balanced out and even improved when he started tithing. That guy’s day was made, and the two Lone Star employees maybe saw Jesus a little.
And I’ve gotten to see more and more ways that I can put myself in positions that open me up to showing Jesus to others, even if it’s just with a few more dollars to out toward some comic books.
I think the phrase “God willing” has a lot of weight in it. Naturally. The paths God lays out for us can be frightening, downright dangerous sometimes. So saying something is God’s will sin’t something to throw out frivolously. But at the same time, if we put too much weight on it, it’s hard to carry out. We’ll be too scared to make even the smallest move into the will of God because the stakes are high. But even the small things play into his will, into his purpose. And we’re robbing ourselves as long as we decide that little things don’t matter as much as “big things.” The Lord wants us to live a good life. He puts opportunities in front of us at every turn, but its up to us to look for them and, after that, to take them and use them for something good. I took one.
And I pray for another to be waiting for me soon, and for the courage to act on it.