Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Unexpected Encounter

A series of events led to an unexpected encounter this afternoon.  

I’m in Las Vegas (a place I generally despise) with Mike as he attends a Western State’s Sheriff’s Conference. To my pleasant surprise, the conference is a couple of miles off of the strip in a beautiful resort and spa, which also happens to have an equine center and arena. (I was looking forward to watching a few horse events, but none are scheduled while we’re here. That disappointment is beside the point, entirely). 

As we filled the luggage for our trip, Mike held swim trunks in his hand and asked if I packed my swim suit.  “No,” I said, imagining the long trek through a smelly, smoke-filled casino to get to a pool area. I planned to visit the pool, of course, but in capris rather than a bathing suit.  

A few minutes after I gave my answer, our daughter posted a photo on Facebook. I can rarely resist the temptation to look when I receive that particular notification.  Opening the app, I saw a photo from Mike’s cousin. It showed her pedicured toes against the sparkling blue backdrop of a pool. “On second thought, I’m taking my suit,” I said to Mike.

This afternoon, I sat poolside in Vegas for nearly two hours of glorious sun, made possible only by immersing myself in the cool water a time or two. There were more children than I believe I’ve ever seen in this particular city, and no ridiculously skimpy attire in site. The unexpected family-friendly atmosphere was a comfortable setting to spend an afternoon in solitude.

For a Colorado girl just coming out of spring snow storms, the pool deck was rather hot and I eventually moved my towel and book to a lounger in the shade, adjacent to a beautiful hot tub area. A few steps in front of me, I noticed a man who sat in the jetted oasis. He had his back to me. I don’t know why he held my attention, but I watched as he lowered his face into his hands. His whole body began to shake as he sobbed. His grief seemed raw and I doubt he realized anyone was watching.

My heart went out to this man and I was deeply touched by his display of emotion. In all honesty, I wanted to go to him and ask if I could help in any way.  Approaching him would have felt inappropriate, and it's not hard to imagine that it could have risked personal safety. I quickly dismissed the idea and began to wonder about the cause of his grief. We’re in Las Vegas so I imagined that he’d lost a life-changing-sized bet or that his sin had become too heavy to bear. In a more grace-filled second, I wondered if he’d recently lost someone he loved.

It became one of those moments when I thought, “All I can do is pray,” knowing full well that prayer is far more significant than an “all I can do” type of activity. I prayed that this man would find God in his brokenness and that the Lord would provide great comfort for whatever he faced. I asked God to reveal the plan and purpose ordained for his life and to equip him for the next leg of his journey. 

I’ll never know the cause of the stranger’s grief, but today I tried to help him in the most powerful way possible. I realize my thoughts about his troubles were likely far off base but I rest in knowing that God understands every detail and will work all things together for good when this man surrenders to His will. 

Sometimes God’s ways are surprising and unexpected. Several pieces of an oddly-shaped puzzle fell into place today.  In a location I rarely visit and because of a split second decision to pack what I’d once decided to leave home, I was made aware of one man’s grief. May God be glorified through all that transpires from here, though I won’t know the results on this side of heaven.

Your Turn:

When have you helped a stranger?  How did that look?

Do you believe that prayer is the least we can do? Or is it, instead, a powerful tool?

Has God ever knit seemingly ordinary circumstances together in order to reveal something to you?

Continue the conversation by commenting below or visiting Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28


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