God and I had a fight last Saturday. Didn't mean to. Didn't want to. And it wasn't a knock down, drag out fight. I mean, c'mon, really. When has that been possible with God? You might get knocked down and drug out, but God won't break a sweat.
I actually didn't even WANT to fight with God, it's just that, well, sometimes God asks some pretty awkward stuff, you know? Stuff that looks like it's going to get embarrassing, making you look odd.
Chadd, my youngest son, and I joined a bunch of other Marching Band parents to set up the Christmas tree sale last Saturday. Ever tried to unload and set up 900 trees? A great time working together. After six hours we were cleaning up when Tom, another parent, and I started talking. I asked him how he was doing and found out that he had hurt his neck a couple days before and was in excruciating pain. The day before he had gone to the emergency room because he couldn't stand it and had come home with some humongo pain killers. They really weren't helping much and he had been awake since 2:00 am.
It was at this point when God and I got into it. I had a very distinct impression that I was to pray for Tom. You might know that kind of impression. There are times when "a good idea" comes to mind. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. The thoughts are common sense or just me. Then there are the times when a thought pops into my mind and it is not just a good idea, it is a GOD idea. It is strong, definite, significant. And I've learned this is something that I had better do. And that it is not about me (see my last blog for more on that).
"Okay, God. I'm willing, but there are a lot of people around and I don't want to embarrass Tom."
"Pray for Tom."
"Okay, God. I'm not saying 'No' here, I just want to do this properly." (Which is good sometimes, but I've also learned that God is not always real concerned with "properly." Just ask Mary and Joseph.)
"Pray for Tom."
I walked away. I wasn't trying to get out of it, just making sure it was really God and not me. Really.
People began to leave, Chadd and I stayed to make sure everything was cleaned up, to make sure Tom didn't lift anything and to look for an opportunity. Problem was, another guy that didn't seem like the praying type, kept hanging around to help Tom as well. Again, I wasn't trying to shirk, but I didn't want to embarrass him either. And he kept hanging around.
So I did the spiritual, pastor thing. I left. Truthfully, I wasn't running. I just thought maybe it was just me. As we drove away, it refused to shut up.
"Pray for Tom."
I turned around at the next street. "Dad, what are you doing?"
"I think I'm supposed to pray for Tom."
"Okay." I think Chadd was readier than I was.
We drove back to the parking lot where Tom, his wife, his son and the other dad were still talking at a picnic table. I promptly drove right past.
"Pray for Tom." Not mean, not loud, but ever so clear and distinct. This was not me, this was God. He was not going to let me off the hook. The only way to get out of this was to blatantly, intentionally refuse. Here's another lesson I've learned: If I choose to refuse I take a step away from a closeness with God. And I hurt other people. I certainly didn't want to step away from God. Been there, done that and it ain't pretty. And it was becoming increasingly obvious that God wanted to do something for Tom. I certainly did not want to rob him of God's touch. I've been in pain and I don't want anyone to endure it a second longer than necessary.
"Pray for Tom."
We went through the intersection and turned left – the way home. Chadd probably thought I'd lost my ever' lovin' mind. "How many times are we going to drive by before you just do this?" he could have asked, but didn't. Turned around at the next intersection and headed back to the now familiar parking lot. Yep, the whole crew was still there.
With God watching, and Chadd wondering, I finally had the courage to turn into the parking lot, drive up to the group, get out and start walking toward them. They all grinned and teased. "What did you forget?"
"Nothing. Just returning the screw you gave me," I said to the other parent and held out my hand. He smiled, remembering he had given me the gift of a bent screw while working together. Christmas spirit, you know.
Deep breath. (And you thought us pastors had it all together). "Actually, I feel like I'm supposed to pray for you, Tom. Would that be alright?"
"Sure. Every little bit helps."
"Well, I'll be going home now," said the other parent. He left, I put my hand on Tom's shoulder and prayed. Nothing special. I prayed that God would remove the pain, heal the source of the problem and let Tom do the things he wants to do. No thunder or sparks. Frankly, I felt nothing at all. Sometimes, I can sense the Presence of God, but this time I felt nothing except relief that I obeyed. We talked for a few more minutes. Tom and his wife were appreciative for the concern and mentioned again how every little bit helps.
And we went home. Very glad that I obeyed, as much for myself as for Tom. That was Saturday. I've wondered throughout the week how Tom was doing and I've kept praying for him.
Tonight (Friday), Chadd said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot. I saw Tom at the tree sale Tuesday night. I'm sorry I should have told you sooner. He said to tell you that when he woke up Sunday morning the pain was completely gone."
WOW! God actually healed Tom. Just like that.
And to think I almost missed it. I nearly allowed someone else to continue in pain. I nearly lost the opportunity to be used by God to do something signficant. My spirit is soaring this evening. THIS IS WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING. An incredible honor.
I've GOT to stop fighting with God.
Gal 5:25 (NIV) "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
(To listen to Herb via the internet go to http://www.newsongpittsburgh.org/sermons.htm )