Have you ever gotten into an unexpectedly wonderful conversation?
You know the type: you strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger and somehow the two of you connect to talk about the depth of life.
Today, I had a chat with a phenomenally strong man of God while sitting and waiting for my car to get checked out. Our interaction started out like any other interaction: surface level small talk. He is employed at a brand new automotive repair place in Atlanta.
I walked in, little Bear on my hip, when the man asked, “how old is he?”
“Five and a half months,” I always beam when I get to talk about my little guy.
He asked about my car trouble and I ran through the list of woes. He rang up my diagnostic info and took my keys. The whole process seemed pretty typical; surely our conversation wouldn’t go any deeper than a few moments of breaking the quiet awkwardness in the waiting room.
That was until he told me that he and his wife just had a newborn baby two weeks ago.
“And you’re here!? You’re crazy.” I joked.
“Are you sleeping?”
“Not quite yet.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“A little girl.”
“What is her name?”
I couldn’t help but gush. What a beautiful name, I said aloud. Then, our conversation got deeper.
“I was a highly-functioning alcoholic for twenty years.” He admitted.
For some reason, I didn’t flinch. If this man survived twenty years of such a devastating and debilitating disorder, I was sure to learn a lot. The fact that he used the term in past tense was encouraging. I knew I was in for a true showcase of the glory of God.
He shared his entire story: every single bit of the despair he felt in each of the perfectly timed twists and turns of his life. He went on to admit that his wife was not his first wife. She was, in fact, an answered prayer that he never knew he would pray.
After all, when you’re making over $100,000 and you’re married with three kids, surely, you’ve accomplished your American dream. Life had turned out well for him and he assumed he would follow the path to unrivaled happiness. He was sure he had arrived at the apex of what life could bring.
Yet, he kept drinking. Ten beers every day; twenty-five on Saturday; twenty-five on Sunday…that was until he learned of his wife’s ongoing affair.
He was suddenly a single father to three children. Something had to give. Something had to change. God was about to do a major overhaul in his life, and he wasn’t sure he could go along for the ride. He felt as if he had wandered in the desert too long. How could God make him a worthy vessel after he had single-handedly wrecked himself from the inside?
Then God spoke aloud to him in the car: Jehoshaphat. It had been years since he was in the church. What on EARTH could this possibly mean?
He said God spoke through Jehoshaphat’s weaknesses. He spoke through the fact that Jehoshaphat repented of his former idolatry and promoted worship among his kingdom.
“I began to speak praise over my life. I didn’t stop worshiping God.”
And then God began to completely transform this single father of three, to a man who was ready to care for another wife and child. This time, he was completely sober.
How perfectly appropriate to name his daughter Selah, which typically follows a Psalm and suggests that you pause and pray. After the major upheaval of his life, it was time for him to stop and reflect on the overwhelming goodness of God.
After listening to this man’s testimony, I couldn’t stop thinking about it on the way home. It made me consider my own poor decisions and consider how God can use my weakness for his glory. After all, God never chose the man who was perfect. No; God chose the brazen and broken. For a time in my career, I felt as if I had to pretend that I never made a mistake. Over the past year and a half of my life, I have come to realize that when I speak of my brokenness, I am speaking both of an inherent condition, and yet from the perspective of becoming a new creation in Christ. Without owning my past, I cannot possibly take a hold of my future. This self-preservation is pride, and I limit God’s glory if I do not chose honesty in sharing my story.
So what does Selah look like in my life?
Stop: Stop trying to be perfect. Stop pretending that I understand everything that God has to reveal to me. God can reveal different things during different seasons of my life through the same passages of scripture. Stop and hear what the Lord has to say.
Enjoy: Enjoy what God has given to me. Relish in the peace that only God can bring. Enjoy the wisdom that the Word can bring.
Listen: Do not ask God for anything. Just listen to what he has to say. God can speak to me through scripture; God speaks to me through perfect strangers. Listen to others in the wisdom that he has given through difficult life experiences.
Appreciate: Live within your means and be content where you are. Do not wish to be anywhere other than where you are. Do not wish that things would’ve turned out differently for you. Appreciate the moments that life has brought my way and praise God for the ability to live and breathe another day.
Honesty: Take a moment to examine your heart and be sure to pour prayer into areas of my life that need a tune-up. Never stop seeking God or doubting my dependency upon his grace.
Selah: what a beautiful, perfect name for a newborn baby.