I was participating in an ice breaker for a physician focus group. The moderator asked us several questions and most were easily answered but one gave me pause. “What person or persons were most influential in your life?”
The reasonably safe reply is to acknowledge one’s parents and although they immediately came to mind, I thought I would be more introspective. I recalled my teachers, friends, and mentors. All were very important in helping to shape who I am but I wanted to dig even deeper. There have been many complete strangers whom I have met during which the interactions lasted no more than a few minutes and I never reconnected with them. Yet, the meetings profoundly impacted my life. I suspect I am not alone when I state that we sometimes learn life’s most important lessons from seemingly random conversations from complete strangers.
One memorable example was a patient I met in a medical clinic in St. Louis, during the last month of my fellowship. Bubbly and animated, she was adorned with a crucifix around her neck. Her open purse revealed a well-worn Bible. Her gray hair was the only clue to her age; she exuded the energy of a young woman with unbridled enthusiasm. After I introduced myself, she unabashedly launched into a witness of her faith.
“Do you know Jesus Christ?”
I was taken aback by her forthrightness and I fumbled with my answer. “Uhh…yes ma’am.”
Seizing upon my hesitation and disingenuous attitude, she pressed the issue, “Really? What does Jesus Christ mean to you?”
I gave her the stock answer. “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”
“I see.” She thoughtfully nodded. “So you are going to church?”
I felt like the Samaritan woman at the well when Jesus pressed her with ever more probing questions about her lifestyle and faith (John 4:1-45).
“No ma’am,” I confessed. “I haven’t found a church since I arrived in St. Louis. I am here for my fellowship and came here from Los Angeles.”
Eyeing me suspiciously, she continued. “You are welcome to come to my church! We are right over in east St. Louis, just over the bridge.”
Not wishing to offend, I amicably replied, “Thank you! I will certainly consider it.”
She looked deep into my eyes and at that moment, I felt God was speaking to me. “Doctor, you have to be on fire for the Lord!”
“Yes, ma’am.” I gulped.
During this time in my life, my walk was God was nearly non-existent. I was a forlorn back-slider, entirely focused upon excelling in my professional goals. Her direct challenge to me was what I needed to hear. I returned home that evening, her words echoing in my mind. A short time later, I recommitted my life to serve Jesus Christ.
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
Psalms 77:19 (ESV)
There are no random encounters in life. Everyone we meet is ordained by God for a purpose. There have been many, many people, whom God allowed me to meet to impart a timely message or lesson from Him. God leads me through the sea of life but I may not always recognize His presence and guidance because His footprints are unseen.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.