“Why does that man keep staring at you?” my friend asked looking puzzled. In a room full of two hundred women attending a women’s conference, he was one of only about six men. Two of them were helping set up tables and the rest just standing on the periphery. We had finished a glorious praise and worship session and were standing around chatting while the presenters set up for a panel discussion. I shrugged. I, too, had spotted his laser focus in my direction. Even from across the large room, it seemed he was overly curious about me or someone standing close to me. I was starting to feel really weird about it. I rejoined the conversation with my friends, but kept glancing back to see if I was imagining his overt attention. Sure enough his eyes were still on me. Feeling awkward, I turned away. A short time later, one of the other women commented, “Does he know you? That guy just keeps looking over here.” I replied, “He doesn’t look familiar, but it is bothering me.” I glanced and then looked in the other direction. My friend touched my arm and looked towards the man. At that moment, he was making his way across the large conference area, through a mass of women, headed straight for us.
“ I’m sorry. I noticed I might be making you uncomfortable and wanted to come over and explain why I was watching you.” He had a gentle smile and seemed harmless. “You see, that is my wife sitting on the stage.” He pointed to a lovely brunette busying herself with a microphone and some scattered notes in front of her. She was one of 4 panel speakers getting ready for the next session.
“We are leaving for an extended missions trip this week and we were both feeling pretty discouraged. We were worried that nothing we did was making much of a difference. We want to serve the Lord, but had hit a rough patch in our service-I guess we are just a little burned out. And then…I saw you…singing. Your face was so full of joy. You were so caught up in praising and worshipping the Lord.”
What? His attention was still a mystery to me. The room was filled with women who were joyously praising the Lord. I was guessing, however, it could be that I am 6’1” and do stand out a bit. I was hoping he was just one of those curious people who wanted to know if I play basketball or something. Still…,I stood silent and he continued.
“A few years ago, you were our waitress at a café in Mt Pleasant. (Again, people often remember me because of my height) and to be honest we commented that we had rarely seen someone look so sad and miserable. You were nice to us, but just looked beaten down by the world and so lost. It seemed to be written all over your face.” Here, he hesitated, like he was checking to see if his words were offending me. When I just curiously looked at him, he said, “When we left, my wife and I sat in our car and prayed for you.”
I felt tears gather as I recalled this time in my life. I did not remember this man or his wife, but I knew exactly the time of my life he was talking about. I was going through a season of feeling like a failure on all fronts. I was even close to was convincing myself that those I truly loved would be better off without me. I can only describe it as a time of complete hopelessness that pervaded my every day and disrupted my sleep at night.
“As we were singing, I saw you across the room. I couldn’t believe it! It was the same woman who had waited on us.” He said with a smile. I could only imagine him thinking: the same woman who looked so slumped with dejection, the same woman who wore her lack of self worth like a t-shirt with a dull yellow “watch me fail” emoji. That same hurt woman emitting pain so blaring, we felt compelled to pray for her before we could continue our journey.
“There you were. Your face so filled with happiness, so full of joy. It lifted my spirit and I know it will lift my wife’s as well.” I was shocked. Only I knew the truth about how low I was feeling. And now I remembered that it was also around this time that my hopelessness turned to glorious hope! (see bold text below) What a glorious adventure of twists and turns my life had been since then.
I grinned-truly grateful for this man and his wife. “Thank you for praying for me.” I shared a brief summary of what had happened to me since that very hard time in my life. He said he couldn’t wait to tell his wife about me and how it would encourage her for their upcoming mission trip. I told him I was glad he came over to talk. It was an encouragement to me as well.
As he walked away, I thought of the miracle of this encounter. The café he was talking about was located about two hours from the conference center and the chance of him or his wife ever seeing me, was very slim, unless you apply God’s “nothing is impossible” probabilities. Over the years, I have remembered and told this story over and over again, thanking God for his personal gifts of comfort and inspiration, and for His directive to pray for others.
You may never know … “the rest of the story” of a person you have lifted in prayer. You may never see that person as a joyful praising hope-filled woman across the room in a body that once held a soul so sad it showed. Nevertheless, if you have an opportunity to pray for a hurting loved one or a stranger you sense could use a prayer, please do. It is a powerful present to give to them. I will forever be thankful for the faithful couple who took hands in a parking lot for me.
I am posting TWO of my favorite chapters today. This one and one called, “Turning on the Fountain of Faith” Please watch for it to be available to read shortly. It is hard for me to truly express what your taking the time to read this blog means to me in this crazy busy world! I can say that this morning as I woke knowing I would spend much time today writing and revising, I, too, felt like it was too daunting a task, and then I read an email from a dear someone who expressed her feelings about the blog. She was a new reader and her words instantly energized me and inspired me to keep working. To the writer of that email, “Thank you”. Dear Lord, Thank you for the powerful presents of prayer, encouragement, courage, comfort, and joy I believe happen around us everyday. Amen