In 2009, Jenn heard the voice of God. As I was in the room with her at the time, I can decidedly affirm that God did not, at that time, also speak to me.
I’m now pretty sure that I’ve used that as an excuse.
The upshot for Jenn was that her life was transformed in a not-so-subtle way. Having just begun to emerge from a deep, deep post-disability depression, literally overnight Jenn acquired a high-res spiritual radar for the broken and hurting. Where once she had been private and almost severely reserved in her emotional availability toward others, she became hyper-gregarious and giving. She wrote about one such encounter on her blog a couple years ago.
Fast-forward to last Wednesday…
On our way back to Seattle from a vacation with friends in Minnesota, Jenn and I found ourselves camped out at the Minneapolis airport with a flight delay. As we sat at the gate, I noticed a young woman sitting across from us talking animatedly, but very quietly, on a cell phone. Soon she became emotionally distraught, and she didn’t even bother to wipe the tears that streamed from her eyes. Clearly, this was not some temporary pain she was experiencing.
I thought, “Soon, Jenn will be over there comforting this young woman. This is the kind of situation Jenn was made for.”
Strangely, Jenn remained preoccupied with her Kindle and books. I was puzzled. Was she broken?
I turned to see what had Jenn distracted. When I looked back over at the young woman with the cell phone, she had concluded her conversation and was pulling herself together. I elected not to mention anything to Jenn, but thought, “Huh. That was strange. I wonder why Jenn didn’t notice anything?”
Soon we boarded. As it turned out, the young woman with the cell phone ended up sitting across the aisle from us… though I was in a middle seat, and Jenn was at the window. From time to time during the flight, as Jenn dozed, I looked across the woman sitting next to me and wondered what was going on in the life of that young woman.
Midway through the flight, I got up to use the facilities. There was a looooong line at the rear of the aircraft. I really was more stretching my legs than anything, so I let a couple of people go ahead of me when my turn came up. And then who should arrive at the rear of the aircraft than that young woman who had been crying in Minneapolis?
After standing there silently for a few minutes, I spoke quietly. “Excuse me, but I noticed at the airport that you were crying. Are you okay?”
She looked at me. “I’m on the way to see my dad. He’s dying of terminal cancer. They don’t expect him to live more than a couple weeks.”
“What’s your father’s name?” I asked.
“Carl,” she replied.
“My wife and I will be praying for you,” I said.
Now… Sunday morning. Jenn and I had gone to church as usual, and had even shown up early as part of “hospitality” hosting for the worship service. But we hadn’t been there long when Jenn just ran out of gas. We talked through the options and decided it was best if she just went home for some rest.
After I dropped her off, I returned to the church. On the way, I stopped at the Safeway up the street for a bag of ice. At the curb was a young vet with a cardboard sign. I asked him if he’d like a sandwich. He said yes, and I invited him to come inside the store with me.
At the ice cooler after checkout I heard a little bit of his story. His name is James, and he has elected to live on the streets, but is trying to get clean. He has just moved down to the Renton area from the Seattle core because the streets are too rough down there.
I mentioned that a church down the street offers hot meals and a clean-up on Saturday nights. As it turns out, he had just been there the night before… and had just been there that morning to pick up a cup of coffee… coffee than Jenn and I had put out. We had missed him because I had taken Jenn home!
Wow, I thought. What a strange encounter. My talk with James was the kind of thing Jenn would do… and she wasn’t there, because she wasn’t feeling well.
And I thought… why am I having these encounters? Why isn’t Jenn here for these? Isn’t this her deal?
And, as I told Jenn when I returned home later, it dawned on me: as grateful as I have been for this profound spiritual gift of sensitivity that God has lavished on Jenn, I have been mostly grateful that it was Jenn that God blessed with that gift… and not me. I have been living a perversion of Scripture: “Earnestly admire the greater gifts.”
In September, Jenn and I are beginning an intensive “Spiritual Formation” program because we are convinced that God is prepping us for some radical changes.
I guess I’ve gotten the sneak preview of what God has in mind for me.
All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way. (I Corinthians 12:30-31)