A friend of mine is writing a book, and he asked me if I would read a couple of chapters. Actually, two weeks ago, ‘friend’ might have been assuming too much on my part. I knew this guy from church and from around the university, but other than a few standing-around-after-church conversations, we hadn’t spoken much. However, in one of those conversations, he mentioned a book that he is writing. He said he’d been giving chunks to people to read, and I casually said that I’d be willing to take a look.
Not long after that I found a stack of papers on my desk with a note on top that said, “Please call me before you take a look at this.” Last Monday, the day before the first day of fall classes, I called. We chatted about his goals in writing and his purpose for my reading. The whole conversation lasted maybe fifteen minutes before I said, “You know, God’s timing is very interesting. I think this is a book I need to look at as I face yet another transition in my life.” He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If you are getting ready to step into something big, you’ve got to settle in your mind that God is for you. Obstacles are going to pop up and you need to see them as God preparing you, strengthening you, using those very obstacles in your favor. You have got to believe that Romans 8:28 is true; God will work all things together for good.”
Well, I hadn’t anticipated the conversation going there. I heard those words as though they had been the main intention of the call, even though they were an impromptu 90-second add-on.
The rest of that day was a blur of activity — helping my daughter prepare to go back to college and preparing myself for the first day of class. The next morning I woke up early, checked and double-checked my schedule, my bag, my clothes, my hair. I ate my standard bowl of oatmeal and prepared my cup of green tea, my cup of black tea, and a tumbler of water. My daughter snapped my ‘first day of school’ pic which I quickly uploaded to Facebook and Instagram, and then, realizing that I had better get going if I wanted to rearrange the classroom into a circle before the students arrived, I tucked my Macbook, my notebooks, and my water tumbler into my school bag and grabbed both cups of tea because I hadn’t had time to drink either yet.
Yeah, that was a juncture. You can see it coming, can’t you?
I mean, why? Why do I have to take all those drinks to a 75-minute class. I end up drinking my tea at room temp most days anyway. Why not take one cup of tea in one hand and one tumbler of water in the other hand? Two drinks is plenty.
Nope. I had to have all three.
I walked to class, set my bag down, placed all three cups on the teacher’s stand, and rearranged the classroom. As the students filed in, I grabbed my Macbook and noticed that a few drops of water were on its cover. I wiped them off casually as I opened it up. As it came to life, I also noticed that a few drops were on the keyboard and on the screen. A little frantically, I wiped those away as I looked around the classroom and noted the students filling the seats. I clicked a couple keys to pull up attendance and noticed that my MacBook was not responding. I panicked a little, then set it aside; I had student relationships to establish and a lesson plan to complete. The laptop would wait, but guys, I knew it was dead.
As I moved through my day — that first class, chapel, online chatting with Apple, a trip to a local computer store — I kept hearing my friend’s words in my head. You have got to settle in your mind that God is for you. Did I believe that? Did I believe that God could be for me even when I made a very careless mistake? Could He be working even my mistakes together for my good?
Well, apparently I was intended to get this lesson settled because also during the same week, I lost a notebook that I was using as a model with my composition students, the lenses on my glasses became ‘crazed’, we lost both of the keys to our house, and let’s not forget that I am still dealing with compromised health and the stress of observing two adult children move out of our place and go back to school.
Of course you know that if I am willing to write about all of this, a few of the issues have been resolved — I have filed an insurance claim and my MacBook has been sent off for repairs, the university has given me a loaner to bridge the gap, the optical shop has ordered replacement lenses because mine were still under warranty, a student found my notebook in an adjacent classroom, and the keys? Well, the keys are still missing. We’re working on that.
But more importantly, I finished reading the chapters my friend had given me to read, and we agreed to meet to discuss them. I gave him my feedback on content and, less importantly, mechanical issues, and then I told him the story I just told you. I said that even when I was yelling, crying, and fighting my way through all these setbacks, I wasn’t without hope, because I kept hearing him say, You have got to settle in your mind that God is for you. I kept reciting Romans 8:28.
He smiled and nodded as I told him everything that had happened, and he said something like this, “God is strengthening you because He is getting ready to use you. As you managed all these difficulties, He was building your stamina, getting you ready for what is coming next.”
He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know that for years I have told students that “God is always preparing us for what is coming next.” He doesn’t know that I have been kind of beaten down lately — grieving a bit, wallowing a bit. He doesn’t know that I needed a dramatic reminder that God is still God and that even in the midst of my failures He is for me.
But God knew.
It still blows my mind. Every time.
I’ve got a new friend, guys, and a fresh perspective.
God is for us.
Romans 8:26-28, The Message
26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.