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The Intentiona​l Chance Encounter

This morning I had a chance encounter…well, sort of. It was actually more intentional on my part, but it was a chance encounter nonetheless. I was driving in to the office like any morning. I was a little earlier than I’ve been lately. Thought I’d get a jump start on things before our staff meeting. Then things took a turn, a turn for the better.
 
As a pastor, the real job is not at a desk, but out with people. I used to chase people around and lately I’ve taken more of a “if you need me, you know where to find me” type of stance, which is inevitable with growth. The problem with that is that people don’t do it. If they’re suffering or needing someone to sit and listen to them, they struggle with coming out and saying it. It leaves them too vulnerable, they think. That’s why we must be more proactive and probe a little and find out how things really are. Without any digging, relationships will remain plastic and superficial. I think the Good Shepherd (Pastor) was proactively seeking out the lost sheep, who were you and me. While in scripture we see a clear precedent to seek out God, he also seeks us out, even leaving others in safety to find us. We should maybe take our cue from Him and be more intentional about having and creating chance encounters.
 
Let me explain what happened. There’s this guy that has been coming to our service for a couple of months. But I’m already on the stage in full swing when he comes in, and I never get to talk to him after. He leaves before I can even find him. He has never filled out an attendance card. It was on Easter that I first talked to him, the only time. This was possible because we didn’t have Sunday School that day, and he arrived early. I finally got his name, and told him that I’ve seen him at the bus stop close by the church. One time before Easter I pulled into the parking lot next to the bus stop, waved and he waved back. I don’t think he recognized me without a tie on. I told him that if he saw a red minivan there, that was me, and I’d give him a ride. It saves him having to wait for a bus to Walmart, then another bus to his work. He said not to worry about it, but I told him to look for me.
 
Well, today I looked for him. From the light, I didn’t see him, because he wasn’t there. When the light changed to green, as I made the turn, out of the corner of my eye he showed up. I almost wrecked getting into the other lane, but managed to pull into the second parking lot entrance and made my way around. I made eye contact, waved and he acknowledged me. Even then, he didn’t come over. I could have left it at that. But we had this talk already! Oh well, let’s press the issue. Since my window doesn’t work very well, I had to unbuckle and get out of the car and yell, “You want a ride to work?” Then and only then did he leave the routine of standing by the bus stop alone and closed off from anyone else. He told me he didn’t want to inconvenience me. He told me it’s too far away, to which I replied, “Isn’t it just straight down the road and to the left?” As I insisted, he finally took me up on my offer. Even with an active pursuit there will be resistance to opening up.
 
Now I cleared off the passenger seat, and manually unlocked the door that didn’t work with the power locks button. And he was my captive audience. I only knew his name and where he worked when he got in, and in the short drive I learned much about him and who he is. I didn’t have to force any conversation, it just flowed because there was opportunity. And this chance encounter for him, I learned was what he was needing and wanting. He wanted to ask for 5 minutes of my time at some point to tell me some things that happened in his life and talk to me about his life today. He didn’t have to get up the courage to call a meeting, because I listened to the Spirit’s prodding and beat him to it. It was an intentional chance encounter.
 
I found out that someone gave him a Bible from the church. He’s been reading it. He’s already in Ecclesiastes and since coming to our church he’s been doing a lot better. He walks to church and then walks to work. He’s had some pain, like everyone else, well, in his case probably more than most. He so much appreciated the chance to get some stuff off of his chest, and I told him that now I know how to pray more specifically for him. He loved the idea that I would do that for him and was appreciative for the ride. I told him that it’s my job, so don’t feel like it’s an inconveniance, and that there will be a next time.
 
Make the most of every opportunity is a Biblical principle. I am not recounting this story out of pride or arrogance. Quite on the contrary, actually. Maybe I feel compelled to share it out of repentance. I have assumed a position of waiting as opposed to creating opportunities. I feel this was a divine appointment, but one that I could have missed due to selfishness or busyness or any other excuse. We, like the priest and Levite in Luke 10 (the good Samaritan) are far too good at quenching the Spirit’s still small voice. The same voice that whispered to Elijah in a cave calls to you and me. He urges us to create opportunities to impact the lives of others– starting with our own families, our spouses, our kids, etc.
 
Now I think there’s still value in making it clear that you’re available to people and placing the ball in their court, where if they really need you they have an open door, but sometimes I need to do more. And you? Have you had any intentional chance encounters, recently? If not, should you be more intentional about looking for them?

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  1. May 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    There were also two other chance encounters today that were intended for someone else but fell to me! Intentional acceptance, then.

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