In the faithful providence of God, I was drawn to eat at a restaurant today where I rarely go...and where I never go alone. It is amazing, in fact, that I found myself there at all. I had set out to go to a different place, but on arriving there discovered they were no longer offering the "special" I was counting on. So I got back in my car, intending to head back toward the church and pick something up along the way.
Again, providence intervened and I could not get a left turn out of that place, and so was forced to go to the right, away from my chosen destination. By this time, knowing there was no easy place for a U-turn, I decided to take the freeway up to the next exit. There were many places to eat along the way, some that I count as my "favorites." But for some reason none of these appealed to me. "I'd like some Chinese," the thought seemed to enter my head. And so, having never planned to do so, I ended up at a small buffet where I have often eaten with my wife or with friends, but never, as far as I can remember, alone.
I didn't really give it much thought at that moment. The food was good, and I'd brought a book along to read between bites. But still, why did I end up in this restaurant of all places?
As I was finishing off my first plate -- I did say it was a buffet, didn't I? -- I glanced up just in time to see a fellow pastor walk in, with whom I have been wanting to spend a little time. He is one of those men I admire most -- a bi-vocational pastor -- who must divide his time between the ministry and a secular job and thus normally has very little time for such meetings. I invited him to share my table, and as we began to talk it became clear that God had ordered both our steps that day.
My friend and I began to share together. He too, had been rather strangely drawn to this place on his lunch break, though he came here more often than I. But why? As we fellowshipped together it became clear. My companion was going through some things and needed someone -- perhaps a brother in the ministry -- he could talk to. He began to share with me some of the things he was facing. They were the kinds of things most of us in the ministry struggle through at one point or another. Painful issues and struggles that, at the time you are facing them, can seem almost insurmountable!
It was then that I saw so clearly the hand of God in bringing us to this place. It was so that I could have the opportunity to share this bit of time with my brother, perhaps even share his burden a little as we talked and prayed together.
Honestly, I doubt whether I had any real wisdom to share with him. I don't think that was really the point. The point was that God intended my brother to find a listening ear and a fellow believer who has been through some of these things before to confide in at that moment and time. And in the providence of God, I got to be that friend. Not only that, there was a benefit for me as well. I gained the joy of getting to know this brother pastor a little better, whom I had only known at a distant before. That always makes for a good day.
So what can I say to this but, "My what a faithful God we have! What a gracious and unfailing providence as He works all things for His glory and the good of His people!"
Maybe tomorrow, I'll try some Mexican . . .