Have you ever had an experience in which you felt like you were in the right place at the right time to make an impact?
I like to call times like that being in position. There are times in which your specific skills, talents, gifts, availability, passions, etc. line up perfectly for a task or need at hand. You’re in position!
Let me tell you of one of those times in my life…
In Position 1: William
I’m part of a group that prepares hot dogs for folks who live and hang out in a local park. The purpose of this activity is missional: we want to build relationships with people — love them, feed them, and begin to point them to Jesus.
On one such occasion a friend and me were walking around the park inviting people to come have hot dogs with us. We invited a man named William and he accepted. Usually in these situations people have stuff to gather up before they can come over to our location. William, however, had all of his stuff in a backpack he was wearing, so he fell in behind us as we made our way back to the grill.
On the way I learned that William had a deep interest in early Christian history. This was perfect for me since I’ve spent much of my adult life learning about early Christian history and the cultural milieu out of which the Church emerged. William and I ended up chatting for almost an hour. He asked about other “Gospels” other than the four in the Bible. He had questions about the Gnostics and their role (or lack thereof) in influencing Paul. We chatted for quite a while about the formation of the canon of the New Testament as well.
Our conversation was deep and wide-ranging. William told me that he had read every book on religion that the local library had…and it showed! He was knowledgeable! He and I were not able to agree on every point but we left the conversation with newly-found respect for one another!
I felt especially “in position” to have this conversation with William!
In Position 2: Alan
William went in for another hot dog and as he did so I heard how loud and distracting my friend Alan was being. Alan was quite intoxicated and was saying things like: “I am death,” “I am darkness,” and “I want to die and take the world with me.” Needless to say, Alan was freaking everyone out, me included! However, I had just been reading Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw and in it the authors urge missional Christians to be shock-proof. There’s nothing quite as off-putting (and judgmental!) as showing visible signs of shock at the decisions of people who do not yet know Jesus.
So, I tried my best to be calm and I prayed. I asked God to give me wisdom and guidance. Then I began to ask Alan questions about what he was saying. I was poking and prodding, trying to enter his world. He asked me at one point if I was making fun of him and I said, “No! I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on with you.”
After a few minutes of this I realized that getting beyond his intoxicated haze was next to impossible. So, I asked Alan if I could pray for him. He said he didn’t want me to because all prayer is fake. I then said, “Well, let me pray and we’ll see.”
Again I asked God to give me guidance and I put my hand on the back of Alan’s neck. I began to pray for him. I prayed for him to have clarity and for him to find peace. Then I prayed for Satan to leave him alone. Now you really need to understand that this is really, really, really out of character for me! I almost never pray this way. But I felt led by the Spirit to do so…so I did.
Almost immediately Alan’s body relaxed. He stopped cursing and resisting the prayer. In fact, he crumpled into my chest and I just hugged him and prayed for him. When I finished praying, he and I sat on the ground and chatted for a bit. He told me how alone he felt, how helpless he was, and how frustrated he was. He asked me for my phone number, so I wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it in his wallet.
Alan hasn’t called yet and he may never call.
But God put me in position to be there for him in the same way that God has put people in position to be there for me.
What’s the point of telling this story. Please don’t take this as bragging or boasting. I was really just the right guy in the right place, thanks to the leading of the Spirit.
Instead I want to leave you with some questions: When’s the last time you felt in position to be used by God? Is it time to answer the call to be on mission with God? Is it time to find out what position God can put you in so you can best be used?