This Weekend’s Stranger Encounters

On the way home from a date night / benefit dinner (the majority of our date nights the last few years have actually been benefit dinners we’ve been invited to, which give us a good excuse to get away, have a yummy dinner and hear about some good in the world), We were almost home and my stomach was a little upset, so 7-up sounded great. So I asked Ricky to stop for some. He chose a minimart in town, where I walked in and happened to be the only customer.

I immediately noticed the woman behind the counter and wondered if she ever felt threatened or objectified by men coming in there. As I checked out, I decided to strike up a little conversation starting with asking her name (Mary Jane), and “how do you like your job?” She answered genuinely and I replied, half-way looking behind me, “I know this might sound weird, but is there somethin’ I can pray for you about? Looks like there’s no one behind me waiting!”

She graciously accepted. Now that she had earned her license and bought a car, she needed a second job, and a place of her own where she and her son could live independently.  I prayed and we talked for at least 5 more minutes. Ricky got kind of worried about me so he actually got out of the car to see what was taking so long.

It was a brief (to me) moment – but one that I truly hope left her thinking that our God is (“Jehovah Roi”) the God who sees her. And loves her.


Then today, as I took Angel to Walgreens for a thumb-wrist brace, I was exiting and noticed a man walking down 99. I’d noticed him walking many, many times before, and thought to myself, why not ask his name? Nearly everyone likes to tell people their name and hear it back. So I rolled my window down and did just that. He slowed down, took his white earbuds out, and walked over to my car as I waved him closer. We could tell he didn’t expect us to address him. His hair was in pulled-up dreads. It was salt-n-peppered and matched his stubble – and his skin was dark brown.

He replied, Mike. I said it back and introduced myself. He asked me why I asked and I told him I see him walking a lot, and thought it’d be nice to pray for him by name.

He sort of took a step back and looked up and off to the right, saying he could use a lot of prayer.

And then he added, “I was just preachin’ about this.”

About what?

“Being a light wherever you are.” He showed me a glimpse of his cell phone, “I was just writing about it too!”

Really? Where do you preach?

“We all preach, right?” he jumped over my question with a better one. It made me think for a second, that when we open our mouth every day, what we say could be considered a sermon. What’s our message?

He followed his own question up with, “We’re all priesthood.”

That’s right!

My eyes lit up. He was speaking my dialect – from the language of found identity.

I was so encouraged in my spirit that he had been given and received this kind of revelation from God. May we be a people who stop our thoughts mid-stream when we presume someone is a certain way because of how they look. I didn’t think anything bad about him before this, but also didn’t expect what he said. All I knew is that God drew my attention to him and to some kind of engaging.

It was a quick conversation and we went our ways. I took the opportunity as we drove to Starbucks, to ask Angel to pray for him – by name.  So that we don’t turn into the type of people who say they’ll pray for someone – and then forget. She prayed a very sweet and heartfelt prayer that God would give him words and lead him with more “knowing”.  I followed, with my own prayer for him.

Now whenever we see him walking near the Goodwill on 99, we will have more context. Not a lot, but more. And we’ll pray for him to grow even more in his identity as a believer, preacher, writer…  God knows what will come of it!

I’m becoming more and more convinced that what’s important when we go about our lives – wherever we are – and whoever we speak to – it’s not about closing a deal or getting a random stranger to say a prayer after us – or even to accept Jesus. That may not be what’s in order. I think it’s actually about

  • listening to God’s spirit,
  • following what he’s telling us to do or say as best we can with the courage he himself provides,
  • listening to that person – closely with love – no agenda, and
  • trusting the Holy Spirit to a.) give us words for the next sentence and b.) do the heart work necessary for a change and for eventual complete restoration.

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