Last Saturday morning I fought the temptation to depart until the appointed time, 9:00am. He was having nothing of it though.
“Just a little longer.” He said. “Nine-thirty, okay? ”
My list of to dos had grown a country mile in just the last hour so I bolted from the sheets. Hanging up my clothes had been a goal for some time. Must have been twenty five garments, not counting the suitcase which had already waited two weeks for unravelling. At 10:00, laundry sorted and everything hung, I returned to the bed to wake “Sir Sleeps-Alot.”
“Seriously, Rog.” I said. “We’ve got to get moving. We have a lot to do today and I’m genuinely hungry.” I then made an unusual request in a very unusual way.
“I want to go right now… and I want to go to Original Pancake House, the north store. We never go there.” Like a spoiled child I continued, ”And I want to eat chicken fried steak!”
If you know me, you know a chicken fried steak breakfast on any menu is a ridiculous amount of food for me to consume… but I didn’t care. It was what sounded good to me. I’d had no dinner the night before and I was determined in that moment to fulfill the desire of my heart.
We left without showering. Both of us in baseball caps. Me in a pair of yoga pants, tennis shoes and a winter coat. We set out to make my dream come true, hoping we wouldn’t see anyone we knew.
Roger dropped me at the curb, perhaps a first in our twenty-eight years of marriage. I put our name on the waiting list. Didn’t know how long the wait would be but I didn’t care. My plan was in motion and I was hungry.
I don’t usually sit in waiting areas. I just feel more comfortable standing. This time I sat… perhaps attempting to go unseen and to meld with the others waiting to be served. The hostess stand was to my right, the exit to my left. As I assume everyone does, I glanced around trying to figure out how many tables were ahead of us and how many people were in their party. After parking the car, Roger joined me on the bench. Together we waited.
About ten minutes in, a little boy, all of five or six, came running around the hostess stand. Arms outstretched, he took a look around the lobby. His eyes met mine and he spoke.
“You’re still waiting?!” He asked.
I was surprised he knew we had been waiting at all. First time I’d ever seen him but I quickly replied, “Yes we are!” Then he disappeared back into the restaurant.
A few minutes later he returned to the hostess counter with his parents. I looked up from under my baseball cap and noticed his mother looking right at me. I dropped my head as they passed. Watching the little guy in his joy I commented to Roger, “He’s so cute.”
His mom stopped suddenly at the exit. She turned back around, looked right at me again and asked, “Are you Julie?”
“Yes, I am.” I replied, wishing I had showered.
“I’m Carmen.” She said. Then she bent down and whispered in her little boy’s ear.
Without hesitation the little guy walked toward us. Standing directly in front of us he began singing. Not just any song… but one which I had written.
Right there, in full voice, in a lobby filled with waiting guests he sang;
There’s a still small voice that I hear when I’m silent
And it speaks to the depths of my soul
And I know that if I’ll only take time to listen
Then I won’t be the same anymore
Your spirit will guide me for you live inside me
And I won’t be the same anymore
No, I won’t be the same anymore
My jaw dropped. I could not believe my ears. Fighting back tears, I managed to speak.
“You are amazing.” I said, when he had finished.
He replied quite confidently, “I know!”
That made everyone in the lobby laugh.
His name was Gideon. I asked if I could hug him and he said yes. I told him he had blessed my heart that day in a very big way.
God knew I had been doubting the validity of my past and any good I may have brought to the world through music and ministry. I have worked so hard. It all came pouring in as his parents spoke of Gideon’s impact at a recent Young Life camp. That little guy stood up and sang that song for 250 of his peers and then he taught it to them. "We used to sing it at bedtime." His mom said. "Now we sing it on our way to school, sometimes."
I was so taken by their story I didn’t even notice our name had been called. Roger left us to take our seat in the restaurant. I remained for just a bit to say thank you again and to get another hug from Gideon.
This little family had no idea what I had been through the night before. That a customer at the bar had let me in on his personal business, difficulty with his siblings and caring for his mom on his own. He shared emotionally about his parents and how important music was in their lives. He added that his dad always said, “You have to have faith, Jeff. You have to have faith that everything is going to work out.”
“He was right.” Jeff said. “And now, more than ever, I understand what he meant.”
Knowing some of Jeff’s story inspired me to be a blessing. I dashed to my office to grab a CD of my own music. It had been sitting on the corner of my messy desk for weeks. I knew then for whom it was intended.
“It’s songs of faith.” I told him. “And I wrote them.”
As though it was a thing of the past, I said, “Jeff, before I owned a restaurant, music and faith were my full time job.”
Jeff thanked me for the CD and said he looked forward to listening to it. Shortly thereafter, he left. As it happens with me, I began to question my response to his story. As though giving him that CD was an act of pride. Nice try, Satan. I thought. Whatever I had done, I knew my motivation was sincere and good. At the depths of my soul, I knew that much.
Later that night, a friend and his wife came into the bar. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Julie, I’m so sorry I missed your concert. “It seems like every time I try to attend, something gets in the way of my being there.”
It had been a long day. Ready to leave for the night, I returned to the office to retrieve my coat and purse. There I noticed my guitar which rests under my desk. Perhaps I should surprise her with a song, I thought. We had only a few customers at the time so, why not? I returned to the bar, guitar in hand, and I sang… just one song, an original song of faith. I felt inspired to act and so I did. They were appreciative. I returned the guitar to my office, grabbed my things and we headed for home.
In the middle of the night… doubt began to trickle back in. I was gradually being convinced that what I had done in both of those situations was somehow out of pride. God must be disappointed in me, I thought. Too exhausted to fight anymore, I accepted again, the fact that my life has changed radically and I just need to figure out if what I have done, in the past, has anything at all to do with the future.
God knew I was in the midst of a battle. He also knows I am physically and emotionally exhausted. He could see I was losing my grip and he sent me a love note to satisfy a different kind of hungry. I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t even have to shower. God came to me through the voice of a child and his name was Gideon.
It is a given that work done for God is not about the worker. It’s about being willing to participate in a master plan; to pay attention, to be ready to move, to go as God calls, to offer our, “yes.” We are to care less about what other people might think, as Gideon did that day at the pancake house. He did not doubt his mother’s request. He simply did as he was encouraged and inspired to do. He could not have known the reasons why… and God knew I would know that too. The work I have done for God, to this point, has not been about me… yet in that moment God knew it was. He met me where I was at, knowing just what I needed to hear. It was as though He came to say, “I see you. I’ve been watching right along. What you have done has made a difference. Never doubt. Be encouraged for there may be more for you to do.”
I am humbled by God’s love for me. We could have gone anywhere to eat that day. He created a divine appointment and I’m so glad we made it.
The words I long to hear...
‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'