by Joanie Butman
As a follow-up to last Sunday, I want to share an illustration of how God provides when we choose to pay attention. I had jury duty last week and was dreading it. I don’t know what it is about me—I get called every year. I’d already exhausted my allotted postponements so I was obligated to report, even though up until midnight I was still weighing my options asking my husband, “So, what’s the consequence for not going? What’s the worst they can do?” I woke up convicted that I had a responsibility to fulfill my civic duty, though that didn’t mean I had to be happy about it.
I began my day in the usual manner, sitting quietly in prayer. What follows is a perfect example of its transforming power. Among other things, including complaining about jury duty I’m sure, I inquired if there was anything God wanted me to do for Him that day. What I heard in response was a gentle reminder that every time I’ve sat in a jury room, I’ve always been put in the path of someone that needed comfort or encouragement. Instantly, my attitude was adjusted from grudging compliance to eager anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see what was waiting to unfold. Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.
When I arrived at the courthouse with my Bible study tote in tow so I could complete this week’s homework, I surrendered my bags for the mandatory search. The officer took out my Bible that is housed in a zippered leather case and asked if it was a computer. I told him it was a Bible to which he replied, “I could really use some prayers today.” At first I thought he was being flippant, but something or someone made me stop and inquire “Seriously?” He assured me he couldn’t be more sincere. I asked his name and told him that I would be honored to pray on his behalf. I walked away with a skip in my step knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be. I had no idea what Patrick’s issues were nor did I need to. God knows his name and his needs. He was merely giving me the privilege and opportunity to lift Patrick up in prayer.
At my first break I sought Patrick out and was redirected to another location. As I approached, his face lit up. Little did he know that getting me as a prayer partner was equivalent to George Bailey getting Clarence as his guardian angel. Remember George’s response, “You look about like the kind of angel I'd get. Sort of a fallen angel, aren't you? What happened to your wings?”
God is so funny. My goal this summer was to improve my prayer life. Be careful, when you are working on something with Him, He will put you in situations where you have to practice – a lot! As part of my effort, a friend had been hounding me to be more specific with my prayers, which is why I decided to seek Patrick out to determine if he desired more intentional prayers. I questioned if he needed prayer for anything specific. He got teary-eyed, and I backed off explaining he didn’t need to reveal anything to me. He didn’t elaborate and just requested general prayers for health, family, work. I shared my story about dreading the day and my divine attitude adjustment that morning. I heard myself talking about God and immediately thought, “Oh no! I’ve become one of those!” You know what I learned? Being one of those is not necessarily a bad thing.
We said our goodbyes, he took my hand and thanked me before I left. Just as Patrick was an answer to my prayer, I hope he recognized me as an answer to his – a hug from Heaven with this message, “I see your pain.” My heart was full of gratitude for being given the pleasure of bearing God’s message that He sees him, He cares, Patrick is not alone.
I returned to the jury room filled with emotion and opened my Bible study book. The title of the lesson was Love in Action. It began with the instruction that “the law of Christian love carries a divine quality and calls for us to bear one another’s burdens.” Coincidence? I think not. I spent the next few hours completing the assignment and praying for Patrick. I can’t think of a better way to study than applying what you’ve learned, so I began searching my bag sure that I would find some inspirational card or bookmark to leave with my new friend. Sure enough, I discovered a pack of comfort cards purchased years ago that had never been opened. Perfect!
During my lunch break I approached Patrick with this greeting, “I’m back!” Once again, his face lit up. I can’t say that many faces light up when they see me coming so when it happens, it’s pretty special. He explained, “I’m so glad you’re here. I was going to come find you to apologize for asking you to pray for me. That was so selfish.” Astounded, I asked ‘Why?” He responded with such authenticity and humility I wanted to hug him. “There are so many people with bigger issues.” With that he took out a note he’d composed outlining his brother-in-law’s dire situation: brain cancer with only 6 – 12 months to live. “I was going to bring this to the jury room. He needs your prayers more than me. This is what I‘d like you to pray for.” Lamely, I handed him the comfort cards to share with his brother-in-law. It seemed so inadequate given his revelation, but it was all I had to offer.
We chatted for a while, and I mentioned that I had some books his brother-in-law might enjoy. I asked for Patrick’s address so I could forward to him. He jotted it down at the top of his prayer request. I was stunned to see that he lives around the corner from me. It is indeed a small world – the title of my evening small group study this week. I know those of you who don’t necessarily believe in Godwinks* will chalk this up to coincidence, but even the eye-rolling cynics I live with have learned to pay attention to and appreciate God moments such as these.
As far as jury duty goes, I confess I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat waving my hand keen to be assigned to a trial. I don’t think that’s why I was there anyway. However, by starting my day the way I begin most days – on the edge of my seat waving my hand saying, “Here I am Lord, send me” — I gave God the opening to provide a much-needed mood realignment that allowed me to be of use to Him. When I choose to take the time to pay attention to His still, small voice, I may not always be pleased about where He places me, but I am never disappointed.
P.S. At the risk of becoming a stalker, I dropped off some books the next day along with a card reminding Patrick that I would continue to keep him and his brother-in-law in my prayers. If you feel called to do the same, please join me in praying for strength, comfort and peace for Patrick and James.