I saw him last Sunday.
He was sitting across the aisle and in a few seats from me. Grizzly Adams in his appearance. Sitting with a man I know to be a gifted mentor to those who have bottomed out.
Recognition was in my brain, but I couldn’t place it. Perhaps an old client from the law practice. But that didn’t quite fit. I let it go.
But there he was again today, sitting by himself, with his Bible in his lap. And it hit me.
Oh, thank you God! Thank you that he is here. Thank you that he is willing to hear your word preached – I had heard he was resistant to that. He’s here, in this place where worship is so different than what he is used to – Please God, don’t let those differences drive him away. The instruments, a crowd of 400. That’s not how he’s used to it. But he knew that when he came back after last week. He’s choosing to be here. Him, seated in the third row from the front – not hiding, not skulking in as I might have expected.
For years I heard from people who credited his teaching and preaching to some of their growth. It was impressive. His reputation was spoken of with respect. I read things into who he must be – the way we all do with preachers so often. I assumed he was something special, although I did not have any personal knowledge of him.
I recently heard of his fall. The tragedy and pain of it.
I’ve comforted one who was hurt by it. I understood the depths of the pain, the guilt, the denial. I was sad for those involved.
He’s lost it all – every last bit of what was important.
I was so sad for him. Sad for this man who I know mostly by reputation and am connected to only through others.
But there he was, across the aisle from me, singing hymns and scripture songs. He was joined by the mentor – a connection proving that God is still calling after him – pursuing his heart, offering healing.
When it was time to greet those around us, I stepped over and gave a hug. I wasn’t sure he would welcome it. He did. Held on longer than I expected. Silently accepting what must have been so humbling.
He knew who I was – called me by name. We love some of the same people but did not speak of that – the time was not right. As I hugged him I told him I loved him and I knew God did too. He said “You’re the only one.” No, I told him, it’s just that love is oh so hard sometimes.
I don’t know if he believed me.
But there he was with his Bible open. Listening to Pastor Jim speak on Luke 18: 9- 14 (the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector). A message of hope for all of us sinners. A message of redemption given and humility needed. A message of being loved no matter what the sin. A message making it believable that God does pursue us – over and over.
He’s being pursued. He had tears.
I heard he was running away. Rejecting. Angry. Doubting. Lashing out.
But there he was – in my church of all places.
I was blessed today to see God pursuing him. In the flesh, through a mentoring brother. In the Word, through the Spirit. God is chasing after him, calling him back! Working to bring him home.
I pray he responds with an open heart. I pray he reaches for the offer of God’s love and holds on with a tight fist. I pray he is restored to God.
That kind of recovery is rare. It is a difficult road with many ups and downs. So easy to lose progress and get tired. Mistakes can be so discouraging. A life long battle, really.
It might be too late for the former life to return to him, but it is never too late for him to return to God. So I pray.
Please God, soften his heart and bring him close to You!