I keep thinking it’s too late to share this story.
That it should be a story I share next summer because the story happened in the summer.
Yet, it’s so mild in Chicago right now, I think I’ve changed my mind about holding onto the story for the summery months. I’ve only seen a few scattered snowflakes this year and it’s mid-November. Seriously? It feels kind of wrong. And yet SO RIGHT.
So, before it gets too cold to reminisce of the summer, let me tell you: a funny thing happened at Vacation Bible School this year.
At my church, I got to be part of teaching the VBS children the Bible story each day.
I was particularly moved the day my co-leader and I taught about the gentile Centurian.
Do you know the story from Luke 7?
Jesus entered Capurnum, where there was a gentile Centurian solider whose beloved servant was sick and about to die.
Luke 7 says “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.”
When the gang came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, and Jesus decided to go with them to visit the sick servant.
Jesus was approaching the home of the sick servant when the Centurian sent his friends with a new message for Jesus: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.”
I love Ted’s commentary on this Scripture which can be found on HubPages in his article Bible Story: Jesus and the Centurian’s Servant. He says, “Jewish law would make Jesus ‘unclean’ for entering the home of a gentile. Implied is the (Centurian’s) humble courtesy of helping Jesus avoid this ritual uncleanness.”
And then the Centurian delivers the real kicker to Jesus:
“But say the word, and my servant will be healed. “
In other words, Ted writes, “you don’t even need to touch him; your voice will carry the healing to him. And your person will not be stained by my uncleanness.”
Luke 7 continues: When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (That is, even among the Jews, and this man is a Gentile. Words in parenthesis are my clarification, not Scripture).
Then the men who had been sent returned to the house….
and found the servant well.
Sometimes I read scripture too fast. Did you catch that Jesus was amazed by this guy’s faith? Now there are a million occasions for people to be amazed by Jesus, but the idea of Jesus being amazed by a person’s unwavering faith really gets to me.
So, back to Vacation Bible School.
After taking a blow to the head playing outdoors, I witnessed a boy come inside and cry in a folding chair with an ice-pack on his forehead for quite some time.
I’m not going to lie, this kid was adorable, and it’s hard to see cute kids cry! I felt sad, deeply sad, at the thought of him missing what the Lord might have for him to learn at VBS. I felt sad knowing he was hurting so badly. I wanted this week to be such a good experience for him.
That evening I was sitting at home thinking and something clicked. The faith of the Centurian soldier. Say the word, Lord, and he will be healed. Jesus….amazed by someone’s pure faith.
And I prayed.
I prayed as boldly as I know how. I prayed with as much confidence as I know how to muster. I asked that this boy be healed. And as I was praying, I was careful not to test God. I said, “You don’t have anything to prove to me, Lord. This isn’t about me getting what I want or feeling like I need to see a miracle. I come to you believing that, plain and simple, you are the God of miracles. You are the God of healing, both physical and relational, and probably a million other types of healing. Hear your daughter….I ask to see this child at VBS tomorrow, Lord.“
When I checked my email the next morning before heading to church, a message from the VBS director was waiting in my inbox. This child has suffered a concussion and is on bed rest.
Concussion? Bed rest? My heart absolutely sank. I will admit, I probably doubted. I thought, “Oh no–now what do I do if my faith wasn’t enough?” Quickly I re-focused. “No, this is not about me. This is about God doing what he wants to do, and me trusting that He can do something amazing just by saying the words.”
I left our apartment whispering, “I trust you Lord. My faith is not going to waiver because of this news. I’m still asking to see this boy today at VBS.”
During VBS set-up that morning, I felt like my eyes were glued open. I was looking for this child. I was expecting God’s faithfulness, wanting to believe I’d see this child today and trying not to think about what would happen if I didn’t.
Before kicking off the day’s activities, the VBS volunteers circled up to pray. With eyes closed, we offered the day to the Lord. With a concluding “Amen” we opened our eyes, and who is standing almost directly across from me in the circle of VBS volunteers? Yes. The child with a concussion who is supposed to be on bed rest. Yes. He has an enormous smile on his face.
Eyes welled with tears, I listened to him explain that he was feeling so well, his mom decided to let him come to VBS for the first half of the morning.
I know some will read this story and think, “Save that for Chicken Soup for the Soul” or “ever heard of a coincidence?” or “it probably was a very minor concussion.”
And you know what? I’m fine with you having any of those responses. You can have any ol’ opinion you want.
For me, this story is a personal one; I know my response.
I am humbled by the reminder that God wants to have a real relationship with me. He wants to give good things to me. He wants to take bad things off my back and off my heart. Because I have a relationship with Jesus, I see this answer to prayer as a sweet part of our ongoing getting-to-know-each-other. It’s such a precious moment when the body is flooded with grace, peace, and goosebumps–almost like I’m tasting again for the first time that God is so real.
It’s kind of amazing to think about it….there’s nothing in God that wouldn’t make Him thrilled to answer our prayers. (He doesn’t always, if they’re not best for us, but nonetheless He is on our side.) The deep longings of our heart are extremely important to him.
In revisiting this story again today, I’m reminded that God is in a constant place of wanting to reveal himself to us. Jesus’ birth was part of moving us closer to God. His teachings and death were huge parts of it. And now the Spirit in us and around us is the continuation of God’s dream to have us close by. He even uses us and our stories of experiencing God’s presence to reveal Himself to others.
God is more powerful than I normally allow him to show himself in my life, and I grieve that thought. To think of all the times my disbelief and shabby display of faith have hampered the Lord’s work of calling people to Him. Yuck.
Yet despite my less faithful times, God is loving. Just as the Bible chronicles the slow, patient story of God revealing His heart to humanity in bite-sized chunks, God is patient and kind with us now. He doesn’t pressure or force, but in due time we just can’t see answers to prayer as coincidences anymore: because we know and trust His voice, answers to prayer are evidence that God is still in the business of co-mingling with people.
He showed me a little part of Himself during VBS that I feel blessed to have seen.
He was a listener and He is a listener. He was a healer and He is a healer.
A funny thing happened that summer day– I saw a bit of God mingling among a low, wretched, tired VBS volunteer.
I felt him say, in a flood of peace, grace, and goosebumps, “Oh sweet child of mine, I heard that prayer of faith. I always do.”