I had a lot on my plate that day. I’d chosen a seat in the student center so I could drink some coffee while I worked, and I was hoping I could avoid people long enough to get some work done. Typically, however, such attempts were unsuccessful, and that day was no exception.
I’d noticed him earlier as he made his way around the room. As the usual crowd passed in and out of the coffee shop nearby, this man stood out. Selfishly, I hoped he wouldn’t stop at my table. He reminded me of another man I’d met a few years ago, one who’d spoken as if he might walk away from the faith if a Christian wouldn’t give him money in his time of need. I’d felt a bit manipulated then, and I was afraid of walking into a similar situation. I was also afraid of losing time I’d set aside for work. As I sipped my coffee, however, I noticed him coming my way, speaking to me as he came. And I’m so glad he stopped by.
Mr. Larry smiled as he spoke. I can’t remember what we talked about at first, but I remember when he began to share his testimony with me. He spoke of a stroke and of addiction in his past, showing me scars he still bore from a surgery years ago. Then he began to speak of how Jesus saved him. Joy beamed from his face as he described God’s work in his life, seeing his ability to walk and to talk and to do simple tasks as blessings from God in his life. He told me how he loves to clean things for people and how he sees cleaning as a way of glorifying God. He was thankful for his life, embracing any difficulties he faced because he saw through them the power of Jesus at work. He then prayed for me, holding my hands as he asked God to bless me with wisdom and guidance.
Humility is a funny thing. You sometimes don’t realize you’re lacking it until you’re put in a situation like this one. Yet as Mr. Larry ministered to me that day, God humbled me. He reminded me that seminary students and pastors need to be ministered to by faithful Christians, that we as the church are to build each other up and not simply to be built up by the “professional Christians.” God reminded me that he cares for his people, showing his provision both through Mr. Larry’s testimony as well as through the ways Mr. Larry encouraged me in my weaknesses that day. God used his faithful servant to uplift me, challenging my selfishness and encouraging my spirit.
In these last few weeks of 2018, I’ve been thinking often about the ways I need to grow. Among other areas, love consistently comes to mind, love like that demonstrated by Mr. Larry. His relationship with Jesus was clear in his speech and action, for both were filled with love for Jesus and love for people. This year, I want to look more like Jesus by looking more like Mr. Larry. I want everyone I meet to see evidence of the Spirit’s work in my life. And I want to be an encouragement to all around me as Mr. Larry was to me that day.