By The Rev. Tony Marciano
Recently, I attended a conference for people serving in rescue missions. It was a great gathering as we learned about best practices from around the country.
I arrived a few hours early and decided to step out of the hotel and see what was in the neighborhood. Since I have never been to Milwaukee, I wanted to find a local place to eat lunch. I came across a Subway shop but knew I could eat there back home. Across the street was a sandwich shop I had never heard of. Thinking it was a local place, I went in. I actually went in and out several times, concerned there was quite a line. Then I realized the long line said this was the place to eat. The locals eat here.
I got in line and asked the gentleman in front of me if he ate here often and what he recommended. That started a conversation about him living in Wisconsin and dealing with the snow.
As I placed my order for a chicken salad sandwich, the gentleman told the server that he was going to pay for my sandwich. When I got to the register, I was a little surprised to learn that he really was paying for my sandwich. I told the cashier that his credit card wasn’t good (bad joke), so I could pay for my own. The gentleman then pulled out cash and paid for both. He turned and left. It took a few minutes for them to make my sandwich. By the time they handed it to me, he was already out the door.
I stepped outside thinking we would eat together. I invited him back inside to eat but he said he was taking the food to his roommate. The light turned red, he crossed the street and I never saw him again.
The convention started a few hours later. Although I rarely do this, I asked God for a “Damascus Road experience.” The apostle Paul, before he became a Christ follower was blinded by a lightning bolt on the road to Damascus. I just didn’t want to lose my sight. It was then Jesus became real to him. Think of having paddles put on your chest when you have a heart attack. I just didn’t want to lose my sight.
We had great workshops on a variety of topics. At each one, I thought I would receive my lightning bolt. It never came.
I got to the last general session thinking this was it but nothing happened. I played with my water glass while the speaker talked on his subject.
It was as if Heaven was silent. I prayed and asked God to reveal Himself to me in a powerful way, yet nothing happened.
I left the conference wondering why God hadn’t answered my prayer. It took a week to realize that He did, but not the way I asked. Let me share with you a Bible story.
After Elijah takes on the priests of Baal and defeats them, Jezebel, the King’s wife puts out a death threat on Elijah. Elijah runs for his life. Exhausted, he wanted to die. He “whines” that he is the only one standing for the Lord. The Lord says, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord for the Lord is about to pass by.” A wind came and shattered the rocks but the Lord was not in it. This was followed by an earthquake but the Lord was not in it. Then came fire. Finally, there came a gentle whisper.
I wanted the “paddles on the chest” experience. God had already shown up. He made Himself real, not in a gentle whisper, but in a chicken salad sandwich.
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.