Skin Around His Presence

I hesitated to write this one, because the bigness of it seems diminished when you try to convey it in a simple blog post then send it out into cyber space. I’d much rather tell you about this one in person. But the point of this blog is to magnify His awe-inspiring greatness, so I’m going to try.

As moving day draws closer and the reality of the brokenness in South Bend starts hitting closer to home, last week found me fighting for faith. Fighting to regain perspective that Jesus is bigger than inner city South Bend. Bigger than my insecurities and insufficiencies. (NOTE: Liza is incredibly weak. God is incredibly patient and generous and strong.) In a window of free time Saturday morning, I hit up Le Peep, a local breakfast joint in South Bend, with my Bible and journal.

April 19th journal entry – “I just need Jesus. I need to remember how big and how faithful and how much He loves. I need a Friend, Someone who understands and loves me and can tell me that its going to be ok. To my Rescuer, my Hero, my Refuge… [in the middle of Saturday morning breakfast cafe bustle, tears are trickling down my cheeks as I’m fighting to put Jesus back on the throne where He belongs]… The One who sites high on the throne. Who speaks and thunder and lightning crash. Who…”

“Excuse me.” I look up and see a classy older gentlemen who had been sitting alone a few tables away from where I sat. “I don’t mean to intrude and I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I saw you and your bible over here and I’ve been praying for you. God wants you to know that His goodness is always greater than impending loss.

He slipped a piece of paper onto the table and I saw the title “Your Future” at the top and glanced down the typewritten page to see verses like 2 Chronicles 16:9, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 2:17 and lines like, “When you take your rest in the confidence of His transformative power, you need not concern yourself with your frailty or lack in this moment.” I burst into tears and barely managed to sniffle out, “Sir, you have no idea. Thank you. I’m about move into a hard neighborhood for inner city ministry and I’m just processing that this morning.”

He gently said, “Can I sit down?” I nodded.

“God is already in that neighborhood. He demonstrated on the cross that His goodness and love are big enough to know no boundaries. In the tragedy that happened this week, He was there, ready to forgive and calling to the perpetrators. That’s how big His love is. His presence is in there and you are just skin around His presence.”

And for the next 15 or 20 minutes he just spoke truth about God’s greatness and goodness and love and sovereignty and ultimate reign. As I cried and looked down at the shredded tissue in my hands, that old man in a sweater and Notre Dame ball cap disappeared and it was like Jesus was there sitting across from me. Being a Friend who understood and loves me and wants me to know that He has it all under control. This man spoke to insecurities and prayers that he could never have known about.

After about 20 minutes, God’s healing hands had touched my wavering heart and lifted Himself into His rightful place there.

“Sir, are you an angel?” I was only half joking. “And you just happened to have this paper with you?”

He chuckled. “No, not an angel. I actually meet with 2 – 5 guys here every saturday morning for a bible study. That paper is what we are studying. This morning none of the guys could make it.” He got serious and a tear dripped down his cheek. “I knew that, but still felt like I should come anyways.”

For lack of anywhere to go from there, we bowed our heads and he prayed for me, then kindly asked if he could pay for my breakfast, took my ticket and walked out the door. I walked to bathroom and put my face in my hands and wept – like Hannah-in-the-temple kind of sobbing. It was being in the presence of God in such a real, tangible way and our frail human selves just can’t handle that. We know that He has promised to be and IS with us all the time. But to catch a tiny glimpse of the reality of that is completely overwhelming.

Job must have felt something like this when God opened his eyes to His untouchable greatness. Unworthiness. Gratefulness. Awe.

Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42

As I gathered up my things left the restaurant, the aproned waitress said, “That was a pleasant surprise, wasn’t it?”

I shook my head in disbelief and said, “It was a God-send”.

“Literally”, she agreed.

Sir, if by another act of God you read this post, please know how much your act of obedience meant. Thank you for being skin around His presence to me yesterday. I’ll remember and draw strength from His words through you for a really long time.

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