It was one of those days when everything seems just a tiny bit off. A day when it feels like there’s a grain of sand in your shoe, but it’s not enough to spoil the walk. A day of unexpected glitches and missteps in communication. A day where perspective makes all the difference . . .
I rattle the door knob once more and turn back to Rosie. “But if there had been any traffic…” I say, trying to take the edge off standing outside a locked church an hour and a half before the service is supposed to start. “…North London can be tricky; you never know when the roads are going to choke up.”
Rosie sighs. To me, being an hour and a half early for an appointment feels quite comfortable. In fact, I’d rather be an hour and a half early than thirty seconds late. But to Rosie . . . well, my comfort feels like a grain of sand in her shoe.
This morning, my tireless, long-suffering wife takes heart and finds the silver lining in our cloud of inconvenience: “Perhaps we can find breakfast,” she says. We walk up the deserted block and discover a little café miraculously open on Sunday (uncommon in the non-tourist parts of town). They serve crêpes; the day is looking brighter already.
We order and our meal is brought to us by a young woman with a strong Eastern European accent. As she goes behind the counter, Rosie and I do what we always do—take a moment to give thanks. Nothing fancy, nothing flamboyant, nothing loud. We just hold hands, bow our heads, and say to God a few quiet words of gratitude for this unexpected time when we can share a little of His provision. As we pray, I feel the day transforming. The time we thought wasted is becoming a part of God’s agenda.
“Excuse me, I am very sorry to bother you,” the Eastern European accent has returned to the table. “Please, are you Christians? I saw you give thanks for your food. I, too, am Christian. I work here seven days a week; never have I seen any customers give thanks. It is such an encouragement to find people grateful to God for their food.”
We’ve made a new friend—always something to be thankful for.
Several weeks later, our new friend called me. She said she had a “big problem” and needed help. Could I meet to talk? Anyone with any ministry experience knows to ask what sort of problem a “big problem” is before wading in. But growing up in the Eastern Bloc might have left the young woman feeling suspicious of telephones. We had to meet face-to-face.
When we did, she brought a companion, a young man in his mid-twenties. I soon learned that he, too, was a Christian; he had given his life to Christ at a mission camp for teenagers in Latvia. The “big problem”? He had never been baptised, and she didn’t want to marry him until he had publicly confessed his faith! They didn’t know how to arrange a baptismal, so they were stuck, unable to move ahead with their marriage plans. Quietly, I gave thanks that this “big problem” was of such a sweet kind. If only all pastors only had “big problems” like this!
Over time, we resolved their “big problem,” and I had the privilege of baptising this young man in the presence of many friends and witnesses. Subsequently, they were married. To this day, we keep in touch occasionally, and I always enjoy remembering what God has brought about in our lives: a baptism, a marriage, a friendship—all causes for great thanksgiving! But it all began with a little thanks for a little meal borne out of the inconvenience of a locked church.
I won’t forget that day of doors locked and new doors opened, and I pray I never forget its lesson: simple, small gestures of gratitude (even during those sand-in-the-shoe moments) remind us that our time and our circumstances belong to God. In and for all things we need to be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 ESV). When we do, we’ll find reasons for thanksgiving behind every door and beside every table.
Copyright © 2014 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.