We often think the big moments in life are going to come barreling in – bull-in-a-China-shop-style – but frequently, they happen in the sacred whispers of everyday living. They come out of nowhere, or out of the mundane, and make their indelible mark. A few years ago, a seemingly no-big-deal encounter became an etched-on-my-heart memory.
It was a beautiful October day and I was meeting a few ladies for a celebration lunch at one of those restaurants that clearly caters to women. The décor, popping with fun colors; the menu, heavy on salads and veggies; the sound of clanking silverware mixed with women’s laughter, bold proclamations, and sentences that start with “Let me tell you….” It’s a women’s retreat, if only for the lunch hour.
Since the weather was perfect that day, we chose to be seated on the outdoor patio of the restaurant. I was about to take my seat when I noticed a familiar face a few tables over, so naturally, I went to say hello.
I walked up to a table of two women, smiled and said, “Excuse me, Sarah, I just want to say ‘hi!’ I noticed you sitting here and just had to come over.” I could see they were deep in conversation, so I smiled, waved, maybe smooched an air kiss (apropos for the atmosphere), and went back to my table.
It was a non-event. I sat down, put my napkin on my lap and settled in to enjoy my friends and a delicious lunch. A few minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and it was Sarah, her eyes welling up. She said, “I just want you to know that it meant so much to me for you to come over and say, ‘hi.’ I’ve been feeling unnoticed and I have been praying that God would show me that I’m SEEN. He used you to answer that prayer.”
I was taken aback because, again, to me, it was a non-event. In my mind, I was just being courteous, but to her heart, it was a Divine wink letting her know God had His eye on her. I was also surprised that this particular woman would feel unnoticed for one second. She’s incredibly intelligent and beautiful and seems to be one of those have-it-all women. Unnoticed? It’s hard not to notice her.
As her eyes filled, I could see she was overflowing with the joy that comes only from receiving an unmistakable confirmation from the Lord. And, of course, my eyes filled knowing I was part of God’s plan to restore her.
Simple words spoken. Full joy.
This encounter reminds me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible, John 17. I have read it over and over and find something new every time. When I’m burdened, this chapter is like a massage for my heavy heart.
To give some background, Jesus had just finished telling His disciples all they would need to know in light of His coming crucifixion. He washed their feet (John 13:5-12); gave them a new command (John 13:34); told them He was going to prepare a place for them (John:14:3); told the disciples they were no longer servants, but friends (John 15:15); revealed that the Holy Spirit would come (John 15:26); and told them although they would have trouble, He had overcome the world (John 16:33). Jesus knew He was headed to the cross and didn’t want to leave anything unspoken.
In what seems to be a pause in the action, John 17 begins with Jesus, surrounded by His disciples, looking up to Heaven and praying to the Father. To His disciples, this was probably a non-event. They had seen Jesus pray every day, several times a day, for the past three years. But they were about to find out that Jesus had an additional purpose for this prayer.
As He began praying, He prayed aloud. As a matter of fact, John 17 is the only long, continuous prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. And the whole purpose for this out loud prayer, Jesus said, was so that the disciples would “have the full measure of His joy” (vs 13) by hearing His words lifted up to the Father. His disciples would hear how much He loved them. They would understand that they were a gift to Him (vs 6). They would hear Jesus petition the Father for their supernatural protection (vs 11). Jesus wanted His disciples to know in that moment – and for the coming tortuous moments – that they were seen.
This sacred eavesdropping on Jesus’ prayer shows us the depth of His love for His disciples and the facets of His only holy character. But before we settle for “how nice for them,” Jesus left something for us, too. In verse 20, Jesus switched the focus of His prayer from His disciples to future believers – that’s you and me. That’s YOU and ME! Jesus knew His death wasn’t the end. He knew His church would be established and that this thing – Christianity – would take root and flourish. He knew we were coming, He knew we would have trouble, and He KNEW we would need His prayers.
I am blown away and overjoyed every time I read John 17, and yet, it’s just Jesus doing what He did so often – He prayed. He could have written it in the sky or called on heavenly trumpeters to serenade the disciples to let them know exactly how He felt about them. He could have literally rolled out the red carpet for all future believers. He could have gone as big and bold as He wanted. But instead, He looked upward and gave sacred affection a voice. I can barely take it in.
Simple words spoken. Full joy.
Lord, I thank you for letting me participate in your holy endeavors, like a simple greeting to Sarah just when she needed it. Lord, let me always be on call for your plans. What joy it brings me to know and see – on this side of Heaven – that You are using me to restore what is broken on this Earth. Jesus, thank You for including us in Your prayer just before You went to the cross. It’s the shout-out of all shout-outs. Thank You, Lord, for making joy a priority in You Kingdom. We love You, Amen.