I met God when I was twelve. He introduced himself to me through a UT college freshman named Kenny Waldt who was involved in a campus group called Young Life. Though I don’t remember a ton about that day over thirty years ago, I do remember Kenny’s easy conversation, the gentle flowing river and the unforgettable sound of kids singing and playing guitars just a few feet upstream. God set the important first date introduction for me through nature and music and an available college kid. It was a fairly unspectacular way to start the most important relationship in my life. God is creative like that.
I have thought about it a lot and I suppose that in the years preceding our meeting by the river there were times that he tried to introduce himself. I know God was there waiting to meet me when I was just a girl of five sitting in ‘big church’ listening to Reverend Howland preach at University Christian Church. But I guess I was too distracted by the colors of the stained glass windows to listen to the low, soothing voice emanating from the pulpit.
And if I’m honest, I must confess I have only one other vivid memory of those early church going experiences – an elderly man named Mr. Jackson who handed out M&M’s to all the little kids on the portico. He’d stand there patiently after church while small children gathered round and then he’d pour out a few pieces of candy from his M&M bag into every little hand. I remember waiting in line anxiously and then finally watching those candies fall into my hand. I’d place them in my mouth one at a time savoring the chocolate while the rest melted slowly in the palm of my small hand creating a warm sugary mosaic. Again, too distracted to hear the introduction.
It might surprise you to hear that a church girl like me – a pastor’s wife and Christian author – didn’t meet God at church sitting on a pew, singing from a hymnal and listening to a preacher.
And that realization has taught me a lot about the nature of God himself. Like the fact is that he uses everyday people – not just theologians – to make introductions. And that he speaks in all kinds of unconventional settings – like by the riverside. And most importantly, that he loves us enough to find us right where we are. He’s big enough to use anyone or anything to make contact with the people he loves. People like you – and like me.
So whether you’re at church or at the grocery store or even in your own backyard, take a look around and listen – I think someone is trying to introduce himself and welcome you to the most important relationship of your whole life.