Yesterday at church, our pastor, Keith, told us the story of Simeon. He was a man who was very old, but one that the Lord had promised wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah. When Jesus was just a baby, his mother and dad (Mary & Joseph) encountered Simeon at the temple. Simeon held Jesus in his arms, and declared that this was, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah, and that now he was ready to die.
Within this story, Keith made four observations about Simeon; (1) that he was looking for the Lord; (2) that he was looking in the right places; (3) that he received the Lord; and, (4) that he was ready to die, having received Him. Keith then asked us if we, too, had these four things common in our own lives.
One question in particular stuck out to me…. am I looking for Jesus? Not so much for the first time in my life, as I asked Christ to come into my life in 1985, but in everyday life… am I keeping an eye out for Him?
So on that Sunday, for the new year of 2002, I committed to do my best to watch for Jesus…. Every day, in any place, in any way.
By a quirky coincidence (maybe not), there was a letter in yesterday’s paper in the Opinion Section that I found interesting. A man wrote it about his young son. It went:
“Recently, our 9 year-old son went shopping with us at Bob Ward’s. He had birthday and allowance money to buy a ski helmet. While trying on different styles of helmets, he had set his wallet on a bench. When he returned, his wallet was missing. He was heart-broken. His money, photo ID, and special pictures of friends and family were gone. Although he was sad and disappointed, it was an important lesson for him about taking care of valuable items. Later, our son asked if he could pray about his wallet. We expected him to say, ‘God, please help us find my wallet.’ Instead, he said, ‘God, let what you want to have happen, happen with my wallet, and please let the person who has it be someone that really needs it!’ After his prayer, he said he thought that maybe God had something else in mind for him, his wallet, and his money… something other than him buying a helmet. Then he said, ‘Maybe if the person that took it saw it belonged to a little boy, they’d feel bad and that would make them quit taking things.’
I think the real lesson may have been for us, as parents. What a great perspective pointed out to us by our son. Perhaps we are the ones that have become too hardened and callused.
If you find a black, nylon wallet, please return it to us, no questions asked.”
My wife, Susan, and I decided that we wanted to buy that kid his helmet, so we called his Dad and told him we’d like to meet them at Bob Ward’s whenever it was convenient for them. After his initial shock (and maybe a little embarrassment), his Dad told me that he and his wife aren’t too good at receiving gifts, but he’d talk it over with her and call us back. He called a little later, and said that our offer was awesome, and they’d meet us later that day at Bob Ward’s.
We arrived at the sporting goods store at four o’clock that afternoon, and met up with the man and his incredible son, Terrin. Right off the bat, Terrin said, “Thank you, Mr. And Mrs. Garrison!” He is a very polite and terrific kid.
We got there just as the store was closing, but I convinced them to stay open long enough for us to get Terrin’s helmet. He had already picked one out the day his wallet was stolen, so it wouldn’t take long. Terrin was so excited, and happy to pick out a ski helmet… partly because of the reason he wanted one.
He has been skiing for about a year, and recently he fell and came within seven inches of hitting his head on a rock. So, he made up his mind that he wanted to spend his birthday and allowance money on his own helmet. His dad was very proud of him for making such a good decision about how to spend his own money. It was obvious to Susan and I that Terrin has some great parents, too.
On the way out of the store, I told Terrin how proud I was of him. His Dad turned to us and said he and his wife have learned a lesson from this, too… that they shouldn’t be so reluctant to receive gifts. I also handed Terrin a card in which I had written him a note, and told him to read it later. In the card, I told him how hard it is to pray for people who do us wrong, even for adults. I said even though it’s hard to pray for our enemies, it makes God happy when we do. I also pointed out that maybe the person who stole his wallet would be blessed, maybe even come to know Jesus Christ… all because of him. I also suggested he read a passage in 1 Peter, chapter 3 that talks about not doing evil for evil, and that what comes out of our mouths (like prayers for our enemies) is important to God.
It’s interesting… from this simple, small event came so many big lessons for so many people. It strikes me that the lesson Tarrin’s parents learned from this is one issue that holds so many people back from asking Jesus Christ into their lives… the act of receiving an undeserved, unmerited gift from a stranger.
That’s the same kind of gift God wants to give us all… the gift of unconditional love, unmerited favor, and undeserved grace…. All this through his Son, Jesus Christ.
All we have to do is let go of our inhibitions, our embarrassment, and our pride. Imagine, we can know God on a one-on-one basis… we can know Him on a first-name basis. We can actually have Him in our lives 24-7… for eternity!
Now, who wouldn’t want that? Why would anyone refuse to accept such a free offer? Don’t we all crave unconditional love; someone who understands and accepts us completely… bruises, flaws, scars, and all? Someone who forgives us for every bad thing we’ve ever done, every bad thought we’ve ever had, every temptation we’ve ever caved in to? Someone who, then, quenches our thirst with His Living Water, and gives us life in a way we could never have, were it not for God coming to earth as a human being, dieing for us, and then rising to life again…. Thereby giving us life with Him forever? Who wouldn’t want that?
I went looking for Jesus yesterday, and found Him…. In a nine year-old boy.
Helena, MT December 31, 2001
Appearing Saturday, Dec. 14, 2002