“I think we’ve overstated that God is the God who wants us to obey. Obedience is not the end game. Obedience is only our calling so that we can step into our freedom.” – Erwin McManus
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend asked me to certify a single student in CPR. Although the ask and the circumstances were unusual, I honored her request. I was blown away by the experience. It continues to live in me, teaches me something deeper everyday, and is a place of strength from which I can draw when the day seems long. Whenever I go to this well, MercyMe’s You Are I Am comes to mind – I’ve been the one held down in chains beneath the weight of all my shame. I’ve been the one to believe that where I am You cannot reach.The veil is torn and now I live with the Spirit inside; the same one, the very same one who brought the Son back to life. Hallelujah, He lives in me.
The student humbled himself to accept any circumstance to get where he was being led. Hungry and apprehensive, he followed his faith that led him to the church where our gracious God hand-delivered him the hope he had been longing for. In a heart-felt act of absolute humility and vulnerability, he shared his tearful story with me. He said, 2 ½ years ago he was a school bus driver. He showed up to work everyday on time. He was married and has two daughters. He had his own place and he provided everything his kids needed. If he had to cut grass or pick up trash to get something extra, he had no problem doing that. He spent time with his family and everything was great. On his bus route, there was a little girl who was always late leaving her house. The rules allowed for him wait only three minutes for a passenger and then he had to go on to his next stop. Sometimes he would wait 10 minutes for that little girl because something told him he should. He knew in his heart that she was better off getting on the bus everyday than staying at home.
One day, his bosses called him into the office and told him a woman had accused him of getting off the bus while kids were still onboard and the engine was running. They said he got in a lady’s face and threatened her, then got back on the bus and drove off fast. Without even asking him his side of the story, they just fired him. Since then, he hadn’t found steady work. Pretty soon, he couldn’t pay rent on his apartment and his family got set out. He was separated from his family because his wife took the kids and moved back in with her mother so they would have a place to stay. He stayed here and there when he could but was mostly homeless. It didn’t take long before his marriage fell apart too. It was crazy! In a flash, everything was gone and he couldn’t figure out how or why.
His mother wasn’t in a position to give him anything. Every time she saw him, she offered him encouragement and prayed for him incessantly. She told him to have faith because God would work everything out. His sister told him the same thing and prayed for him also. Day in and day out, he remained homeless, hungry, and without hope. Whenever he was at his wit’s end and felt trouble looming, he went on long walks or rode his bike to remove himself from whatever mischief was lurking. He was proud of the fact that he could go anywhere and do anything as he was not restricted by an arrest record or conviction. But finding permanent employment and stable housing continued to evade him.
A few weeks ago, his former employer called him at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. They told him that someone had written a letter and cleared his name. They told him he could return to work the following Monday only if he could produce a valid CPR card because his certification had expired. It turns out that the mother of the little girl who was always late for the bus, was addicted to drugs. While on one of her high spells, she fabricated the story that led to the man’s termination. The mother was later arrested and sent to a rehabilitation center for treatment. After her release and in a attempt to make amends, she provided a sworn statement to the man’s employer and admitted that her allegations were false.
He was elated about getting his job back but felt choked by the pressure to get re-certified in 48 hours without any support. He called everyone he knew. The best they offered him was the chance to buy a fake card from a document vendor on the street. He went to bed that Friday night feeling hope slipping back through his hands.
He woke up early Saturday morning and set out on a long walk to gain focus. As he was passing a building, he saw his sister’s car in the lot. He went in the building to find her. He found her and she introduced him to my girlfriend. The siblings told my girlfriend about his desperate search for a place to get certified in CPR on short notice. My girlfriend called me to see if I could do it. Holding on to hope for the next 14 hours, the man again felt himself losing his grip on the glimmer of hope he gained half a day earlier. At 9:00pm, he received a call from his sister telling him that the woman he met earlier found some lady who had agreed to certify him at the church at 11:30 the next morning. He fell asleep at his mom’s house that night while tearfully praying to God, asking for Him to make a way to allow things to work out so he could take the training and be able to provide proof to his employer that he had done what was asked of him. To him, having stable employment seemed so close, yet felt so far away. To help soothe him, his mother read this scripture to him before he fell asleep, 4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 – GNT)
He woke up the next morning and came to the church. He spent several hours working hard to earn his certificate and was happy to know he could return to work with dignity and honor.
For the both of us, the Spirit illuminated the reward for obedience. Obedience brought him to a place where he could tell his story of how others set a trap for him so he would fall and fail; yet God delivered Him. He is now humble. What man designed to break him, God used to bless him. His trials cracked him in a way that allowed God’s light to shine through him. He now believes his can be the man God called him to be. Obedience allowed me to see the work of the Mapmaker as He drew the lines and created the path upon which this gentleman would start his spiritual journey. The experience reinforced that there are no coincidences. God’s name, El Shaddai, means All-Sufficient One who blesses with all manners of blessings. The gentleman’s name means dark or black; the culmination of all color in the vacuum of eternity. My name means God’s promise. Putting it all together – God used the two of us to deliver the message of His promise of many blessings and an assurance of eternity to those who are faithful and obedient to Him.
You’re the one who conquers giants. You’re the one who calls out kings. You shut the mouths of lions. You tell the dead to breathe. You’re the one who walks through fire. You take the orphan’s hand. You are the one Messiah. You are I am! You are I am!! (MercyMe)