“12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-14
God does not send everyone in my life to me for my benefit. If life is seen as a movie, you might find yourself as the walk-on and not the star in a scene. I recently had an example of that, and I never saw it until the dust settled months later.
A friend had told me about a training position at FedEx and suggested I apply. I hadn’t been looking, but figured maybe this was a change coming, a gift from God. So I entered my application on line last summer. As expected, I didn’t hear anything back and forgot about it.
I got a call months later from FedEx, asking for a phone interview. I did well enough to earn a live interview at their world HQ. Interview day I drove to that end of town a couple hours early – Memphis rush hours can be brutal – and went to a McDonald’s up the road to study my resume’ and get mentally prepared.
As I sat there, a bedraggled guy sat down a couple tables away, and I heard a despairing sigh. Deep in my own thoughts, I thought for a moment if I should say something. Maybe he needs some help. But he got up and left before I could decide to say anything. I was frustrated with myself, as maybe this was someone God wanted me to help, and I was slow on the draw.
Then he came back in. I got a second chance. Terence was from Joliet, IL. He had come to Memphis with a friend, who unfortunately had a warrant on him in Tennessee and was arrested. Terence is an ex-con on some felony rap. He had no driver’s license, no money, and had been sleeping on the streets for days. He hadn’t eaten in at least 24 hours. He sounded like the real deal, not some hustler.
I bought him the big breakfast, and we talked for a while as my interview time closed in. He hadn’t been able to get into a shelter without an ID. He needed to find a shelter that would take him without ID. I told him I’d help him, but I had a big job interview very shortly. I told him I would be back by 10:30, pick him up, and we’d get him some help.
The interview went very well. As left exited the conference room, the guy actually patted me on the back. YES! I could see myself with my own FedEx ID, walking into one of those big buildings soon.
I hustled back to McDonald’s to see if Terence had waited for me. He had. We figured out where we could get him to a shelter. From there he’d be able to get downtown where he could get an ID and start trying to get home. The shelter was not far from my church, so I detoured there just in case Pastor Chuck had any better ideas than what we were doing. He didn’t, but he gave Terence $55 out of his own pocket.
Before heading to the shelter, I decided to treat him to a good lunch at a nearby Panera that I liked. With two good meals him, I took him to the shelter, said a prayer with him, and said farewell. He took my cell number so he could call me and let me know how he ended up.
As we had driven around during the day, I learned he knew construction, but got caught up in some trouble with some bad folks. He now was fighting alcoholism. His dream was to someday own his own construction company. I told him about how I had been down too; lost my house, everything. I told him he’d work his way out, and that God would see him through if he just relied on Him. He cried softly as I spoke.
Now here’s the thing. Weeks later, I learned that I had not gotten the FedEx job. They hadn’t even called me to let me know, as they’d promised to do if I didn’t get it. It was then I realized that the whole job incident was God having a means to get me to that McDonald’s just when Terence needed me. He never intended that I get that job. It was just part of an elaborate plan to get all of the players in place to have a miracle happen. God excels at elaborate plans.
Only sometimes it is all about me. More often it isn’t. More often it’s about keeping my eyes open for those good works that God has prepared in advance for me to do.
FOLLOW UP: I never heard back from Terence, so I have no idea how he ended up. He remains in my prayers. All I know is that he was obviously touched that some guy in a suit tried to help him, rough as he was, because that’s what God wanted done. I pray he someday has that construction business he wants. Maybe he’ll put a cross or fish in the logo. God speed, Terence!