September 4, 2014

Greatness Walks Among Us



I stepped up to the counter at Starbucks and placed my standard order, a medium mocha made with nonfat milk, no whipped cream. After handing over my credit card, I noticed the barista’s eyes shift away from mine high above my head to the customer behind me. I followed her eyes to see who had captured her attention. Immediately I recognized the 6’5”, perfectly built, dark-skinned man with a gleaming white smile. His dress was understated, a plain black tank top, shiny black gym shorts, a backwards baseball cap, and flip flops. I couldn’t help disclosing that I recognized him,


“You are ______,” I said aloud to him, momentarily star struck but maintaining my composure. 

“Yes”, he replied, broadening his super white smile just for me.

“It’s nice to see you,” I said, returning the smile. 

“It’s nice to see you too,” he followed politely.  

I turned back toward the counter to retrieve my credit card then slid down the bar to wait for my coffee. 

After he placed his order he propped himself on a barstool to wait. He directed his focus to the cell phone in his hands. I noticed two teenage girls at a nearby table eyeballing him, whispering, and jostling their cell phones. He had apparently attracted their attention as well. His order was completed before mine. The girls motioned for him to come by their table, he complied, they exchanged words, he flashed his pearly whites and followed with a nod. Then the girls jumped from their chairs and eagerly followed him out the door. This struck me as unusual so I asked a nearby customer who had overheard their conversation what the girls had asked him.

“They asked him if he had gotten out of that macked out BMW in the parking lot,” the customer said.  

I shook my head. The girls following him outside made sense. With phones in hand and an exceptional interest in his car, I assumed that they wanted close-up, possibly even interior photos of the car to post to their social media newsfeeds.

"What foolish kids,” I thought. “How could their admiration be so misdirected? If they only knew who they were talking to, they would forget all about that car.”

I grabbed my coffee and exited the coffee shop as the two giddy girls returned from the far corner of the parking lot celebrating the photos they could now publicize.

“Don’t you know who that was?” I asked them, eager to expose their oversight.

“No?” they questioned. Their faces went blank and eyes grew large.

“That was Cullen Jones, an Olympic gold-medal swimmer.”

The girls let out a squeal and turned toward each other with both hands on the sides of their faces and mouths agape. They spun around abruptly to run back and capture the significance of the moment but the opportunity had passed. The striking black BMW pulled out of the parking lot.

As I drove away I replayed the sequence of events in my mind. I was dismayed, stunned, and insulted. How had the girls missed seeing what was so clear to me? How did Cullen feel knowing he had gone unrecognized while his car had received the attention he deserved?

A sermon illustration presented itself to me. How often am I caught in a spiritual stalemate because some “thing” stands between me and God? When I pray, I rattle off a laundry list of requests all the while disregarding the fact that I have God’s undivided attention. I allow unresolved hurts and unanswered questions to weigh me down as God lingers nearby desiring for me to fix my eyes on Him instead of my problems.

As God showed me that I treat Him like the teens had treated Cullen, He consoled me that I am not the only person guilty of this. He reminded me of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. 

John 4:10 tells us, “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” 

“If you knew.” That is the biggest IF I have ever heard.

Jesus knew of the woman’s deep need for salvation. He traveled from Judea to reach her in Samaria yet her priorities were so singularly focused that she could only attend to the water she could drink, see, and feel. If she only knew that the Messiah had come to meet her, then she would have forgotten all about that water.

If she only knew that the gift of God is eternal life, then she would have forsaken the pattern of sin she had been perpetuating.

If those teenage girls only knew that they were speaking to an Olympian, then they would have asked to be photographed with the man instead of his car. 

There is a reality occurring among us more real and more profound than our faculties comprehend.

Ezekiel 12:1-2 says, “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people."

The Spirit of God is ever present. Are we seeing Him or are we mesmerized by things? Are we hearing Him or are empty messages pumping through our headphones? God intends to overhaul our natures, consume our thoughts, and empower our actions. He is available. Are we engaging Him?

I don’t want to go through the motions ignoring the most important part of my day, my relationship with the V.I.P.    I want to acknowledge Him, experience Him, and be led by Him. In order for this to happen I must turn my life off of auto-pilot and grant the Lord my undivided attention. He deserves it and will not let me overlook the significance of any moment.

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