I recently had the most incredible God moment of my sorted life; ironically not during a church or ministry activity, but at the movie theater while being tortured with another action movie with my 16-year-old son. When taking a merciful bathroom break for two minutes of sweet peace, I passed a teenage girl leaning against the wall, looking very pregnant, and very sad. I have a special place in my heart for single moms, so of course I did my moral duty and said a quick prayer while examining my roots in the restroom mirror. But then, as clear as day, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to go pray with her.
Surely, He couldn’t be serious. I must just be over caffeinated and brimming with estrogen. Surely I was not being told to go join hands with a complete stranger, when He knows I dread even making eye contact with people in public. Surely, the fact that I left the house looking practically homeless with no makeup and a stained hoodie from ‘99, and zero desire to look a ‘fool at the Starplex Cinemas would convince Him of otherwise.
I stubbornly sped by her, playing spiritual chicken with the Holy Spirit and hoping he’d tap out after sensing my pure dread, but I just couldn’t pull the handle to go back in. Okay, Lord if I turn around and she’s looking me, then I’ll approach her. Aaaaand we have eye contact folks. Here goes….
My tepid walk towards her way felt like slow motion, taking my deepest Pilates breaths and hoping my appearance and post-gym workout stench didn’t offend her at first glance. It all feels like a sweaty blur, but I’ll never forget that next minute or two, because God totally took over. I just explained in my most awkward valley-girl way, that God put it on my heart to pray with her, and she quietly said, “okay.” “What’s your name?” “Nina.” “Okay. Dear Lord…”
It was so much easier than I thought it’d be. The words just poured out of me, praying God’s love and blessings over her and her baby. She smiled, said thank you, and me and my sweaty hoodie were off.
I fully realize this experience seems like child’s play to the natural evangelists out there on the street asking strangers if they know Jesus and healing people at the deli mart. I actually think we’re all supposed to have such power and boldness. But for me, interacting with people I don’t know hadn’t been my thing since playing ice breaker games at summer camp, and it sure wasn’t now. I’ve always been amazed by people like my friend from the Midwest who’ll be in Starbucks for two minutes before learning the work history and genealogical lineage of her latte-grabbing neighbors.
I wish I had one shred of her social candor. I love people, but for whatever reason I tend to avoid eye contact and conversation in any public setting, probably to detour awkward encounters like the guy at the gym thinking I’m looking his way when I’m just scanning for an open elliptical, or if I’m in Walmart, witnessing people buying canned goods in their PJ’s.
So when I returned to my seat after my prayer experience, I was shaking with excitement and disbelief that God not only empowered me to do the “impossible” in my mind, but that I was sensitive enough and most incredibly, obedient to the Holy Spirit. For years I would feel the urge to approach someone at a store, park, or wherever, to talk about God or pray, and I’d always chicken out or convince myself I was just feeling empathy, not the Lord’s urging.
I think the reason I actually acted this time was because I had recently been so in tune with the Holy Spirt, and had been spending so much more time with the Lord. When we’re connected with him in thought and spirit, we’re more apt not only to recognize his voice but have the confidence and trust that leads to obedience.
That experience not only increased my confidence to obey when feeling unsure and uncomfortable, but it also heightened my awareness of what’s happening around me. I realized I need to be more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, and actually look for the next chance to encourage, pray over, or just love the next person God puts in my path. I’ve become convicted about how inaccessible I’ve become to people in general, because of my own busyness, comfort level, or Instagram app.
How many chances am I missing to simply encourage someone with a smile, while standing in Target with my face glued to my phone, or working on my laptop at the park, with a lonely-looking mom sitting one bench away? “But the kids are in the zone Lord, and I’m on deadline!” Doesn’t really cut it when you think of the needs of lost and hurting people around us.
We’ll never know what small moments of obedience like a quick prayer over a stranger will accomplish or mean in the long run. But I’m continually trying to make myself more “available,” by staying connected to the Spirit, and with the Lord’s help remembering to match my socks before future evangelical endeavors. Blessed are the feet…