A girlfriend and I were scheduled to walk. An early morning rendezvous that would allow us to catch up on life and spend a little time planning our next adventure.
But she woke up not feeling 100% and wisely stayed in bed to get some needed rest.
So as I often do, I found the dog’s leash and headed out the door. With no walking route in mind, I let him lead the way. This decision meant we were headed for one of two locations – the local dog park or the golf course. He headed towards the golf course.
We crossed the street at the bottom of our hill, walked through the neighborhood until we arrived at the pathway that leads up a steep embankment that would ultimately lead us home. The path followed the fairway, bordered by tall pines and juniper trees. The morning was quiet except for the occasional sound of a ball being hit or the laughter that followed a missed shot.
I was watching our dog search amongst the rocks for prairie dogs, chipmunks, and the random ground squirrel when I heard yelling behind me. I turned to see where the noise was coming from, thinking it was a golfer angry at his performance, only to be faced with the screams of a groundskeeper. His maintenance cart screeched to a stop in front of me as he continued to yell and curse, “What are you ******* doing on the golf course. You people never clean up after your ******* dogs. Can’t you….” The rant when on and on and then I noticed his jaw. It was quivering. The junction of his jawbones trembling in anger.
He took a breath and before he could start again, I said in the softest voice I could find, “I can see that you’re angry.” I went on to explain that I did clean up after my dog, showing him the used bag in my hand and the stash of unused bags tucked in my pack. I watched his eyes as they shifted just so slightly, softening. His jaw loosened its grip. He remained silent allowing me to continue, “I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you, people can be irresponsible.”
He acknowledged the truth of my statement and for the next 10 minutes, a transformation took place. The young man continued to relax. He shared his story of dedication to his job, his feelings that his actions are being taken for granted, and he spoke of the awful endless frustration of not being able to fix the disrespect and lack of gratitude he encounters.
And just as quickly as the conversation started it was over. He apologized for boiling over and directed me on how to safely maneuver wayward golf balls and reckless golf cart drivers. I tightened my grip on the leash and headed up the hill to home, navigating the obstacles just as the young man suggested.
A God encounter, that special interaction that touches all the lives involved.
God knew the young man needed someone to listen to his boiling frustrations, a calming amid his internal storm. So, He kept my friend nicely snuggled in her bed, and sent my dog on an adventure, down the hill, across the street, and through a golf course, we had walked 100s of times before. Yet, this time I faced one of my greatest fears – an angry, screaming man.
As a young child, my father was this man. As a young adult, my first husband was this man. Both taught me that screaming angry men are not safe and I learned quickly to retreat – disengage emotionally and physically disappear. Somehow, as I matured, my mind began to associate any voice elevation, any appearance of anger or disapproval with retreat and take cover. The boss that would scream when dissatisfied – run. The girlfriend whose excited animated gestures and a voice that could set off decibel detectors – avoid. The husband that had 6 brothers and 3 sisters and raised his voice just to be heard– withdraw.
So this God orchestrated meeting, this chance but not really intersection, forced me to stand and face the demon that haunts my mind. I needed to stay calm in the ranting. Find my feet, my courage, and stand strong as the turmoil erupted around me. Face the screaming of an angry man, look him in the eyes, no retreating, no hiding. Face–to–face seeing the hurt and fear that drives people to lash out, to cry out.
God allowed me to learn courage this morning in a random chance meeting. There was a peace that slipped into the exchange, a calm reassurance that I was not facing the hostility alone. I would have never thought that a walk on a golf course would help me understand what I had been running from all those years. The shouting, the anger, the trembling all signs of their brokenness. I don’t need to allow that memory to impact my relationships today.
The young groundskeeper found a little calm. I experienced a single step towards freedom. A freedom that can only be found when we choose to allow God to lead us, teach us, transform us. One choice encounter at a time.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 English Standard Version
The Apostle Paul had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Please take a few minutes to read these verses from Acts 9 and reflect on the questions that follow.
9 Saul was still talking much about how he would like to kill the followers of the Lord. He went to the head religious leader. 2 He asked for letters to be written to the Jewish places of worship in the city of Damascus. The letters were to say that if he found any men or women following the Way of Christ he might bring them to Jerusalem in chains.
3 He went on his way until he came near Damascus. All at once he saw a light from heaven shining around him. 4 He fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you working so hard against Me?” 5 Saul answered, “Who are You, Lord?” He said, “I am Jesus, the One Whom you are working against. You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me.” 6 Saul was shaken and surprised. Then he said, “What do You want me to do, Lord?” The Lord said to him, “Get up! Go into the city and you will be told what to do.”
7 Those with Saul were not able to say anything. They heard a voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground. When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing. They took him by the hand and led him to Damascus. 9 He could not see for three days. During that time he did not eat or drink.
10 In Damascus there was a follower by the name of Ananias. The Lord showed him in a dream what He wanted him to see. He said, “Ananias!” And Ananias answered, “Yes, Lord, I am here.” 11 The Lord said, “Get up! Go over to Straight Street to Judas’ house and ask for a man from the city of Tarsus. His name is Saul. You will find him praying there. 12 Saul has seen a man called Ananias in a dream. He is to come and put his hands on Saul so he might see again.”
13 Ananias said, “But Lord, many people have told me about this man. He is the reason many of Your followers in Jerusalem have had to suffer much. 14 He came here with the right and the power from the head religious leaders to put everyone in chains who call on Your name.” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go! This man is the one I have chosen to carry My name among the people who are not Jews and to their kings and to Jews. 16 I will show him how much he will have to suffer because of Me.”
17 So Ananias went to that house. He put his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me to you. You saw the Lord along the road as you came here. The Lord has sent me so you might be able to see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like a covering fell from the eyes of Saul and he could see. He got up and was baptized. 19 After that he ate some food and received strength. For some days he stayed with the followers in Damascus.
20 At once Saul began to preach in the Jewish places of worship that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were surprised and wondered. They said, “This is the man who beat and killed the followers in Jerusalem. He came here to tie the followers in chains and take them to the head religious leaders.” 22 But Saul kept on growing in power. The Jews living in Damascus wondered about Saul’s preaching. He was proving that Jesus was the Christ.
23 After some days the Jews talked together and made plans how they might kill Saul. 24 He heard of their plans. Day and night they watched for him at the city gates to kill him. 25 So the followers helped him get away at night. They let him down over the wall in a basket.
New Life Version
Take a few minutes to consider the following.
- Paul had an intimate encounter with Jesus that changed his life, his focus, his purpose. How has encountering Jesus changed your life?
- Can you think of a time when your daily schedule was interrupted by a God-inspired meeting?
- How did that interaction affect you? How did it influence the other person?