One of the blessings of modern technology is when text messages go awry. There are websites to this occurrence. Facebook feeds are often filled with links to auto-correct failures, or humorous accounts of private messages sent to wrong numbers. I am willing to be that if you text in any sort of capacity, you yourself have entered into this blessing in one way or another. I know I have. Over the past number of years I have been sent text messages from strangers attempting to get in touch with someone else. I always respond politely, but do treat them as invitations to be humorous and jovial.
This last time was different.
As I sat at home, I received a text from an unknown number. The text was heartfelt yet sorrowful. It read: “Hey bro, I just got off the phone with mom and my heart is breaking for you. Please know that we are thinking of you and we are keeping you in our thoughts. Love you.” Clearly this was not a time to be jovial. What is more, the text demanded a response. I could not let this person believe they had texted his or her brother in a time of obvious pain or heartache. I politely informed the sender that my name was Kyle, and may not have been the intended recipient of the text. Respectfully, they apologized for the inconvenience.
This should have been it. Why complicate matters further? Why initiate a conversation with a stranger about a deeply personal family matter? Would they reject any God-talk that I used, or see an offer for prayer as some offensive invasion? After all, I didn’t know who these people were, their temperaments, or what they thought of faith, spirituality, religion or God.
As I sat there, I ran through all the reasons we normally cite in such situations to justify not doing something.
- I don’t need to inform the person I will pray for them, I can just pray.
- They said ‘thinking of you’ and not ‘praying for you.’ Isn’t forcing my spirituality on them kind of arrogant and rude?
- If my receiving this text was part of God’s plan, wouldn’t things be a bit clearer?
- Maybe I am called to a ‘ministry of presence’. . Yea that’s it! I don’t have to actually say anything, it is enough that I am ‘with them’ to echo their lament.
Yet something in me kept stirring. My mind was drawn to the passage of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts chapter 8. I wonder if Philip went through these same excuses. When the angel of the Lord declared that he was to go down to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, was this an audible voice, or did he simply feel an urge to be at a certain location at a certain time? And when he saw the eunuch, and felt the prompting to ‘go to the chariot and stay near it’, did Philip struggle with this internal prompting? Did he wonder if he was being invasive as he listened in on the private thoughts of a random stranger?
I wrote something kept stirring – I should say someone kept prodding me to me to further the discussion. Eventually, I decided to launch head on into the conversation. Here is the text I sent, and the response I received.
Obviously the transaction was both a confirmation for this person, and for myself. I got confirmation that I had discerned the voice of the Spirit aright in this situation; this family got the confirmation that they were not alone, and that their cries and laments had been heard on high. How blessed are the random places where God calls us to show forth his presence.
If we fully believe that God is everywhere, then these random occurrences of our lives are never really ‘random.’ They are but the subtle workings of the one who is Lord in all situations and in all places. After all, the Spirit that prompted Philip to go a particular street at a particular time, also prompted the Ethiopian to be in that same spot as well. The Lord who sits with me in my home is also the Lord who designs the mistyping of a phone number for a text message. Come to think of it, in a city of over one million people, what are the odds that this person would mistakenly send a text to a priest?
If we fully believe that God is everywhere, then we will also believe that each moment and space is filled with the activity of God. Every moment is one in which the presence of God is open for us. There is encouragement in this, but also challenge. For if we believe that God is everywhere, active in all situations and all places, then surely we are to be open to the notion that such random occurrences in life are invitations to join God’s mighty work.
Philip and the Eunuch; myself and a random text; you and whatever random situation you may find yourself; God is infinitely more involved with this world than we sometimes admit. Perhaps, even now, you are facing a random moment which may actually be the opening of a grand moment of ministry.