1:20PM-1:57PM | Monroe Park
Today I met Reggie. He was wearing black-rimmed glasses over his Morgan Freeman freckles. He was sitting on one of the rusted wrought iron park benches along the path circling the fountain. I asked him what he was reading. There were underlines all over the page. “The Bible,” he said.
That was all he needed, because Reggie went off. It was like he was so full of the Spirit and the Word of God that all he could do was spit it out. He couldn’t help but speak the Word. He barely stopped for a breath, and every time I was about to talk, I felt guilty for interrupting this stream of Good News being poured out and into my ears. When I did speak my thoughts and referenced a verse, he couldn’t help but recite it to me with eagerness. Man, this guy really loved the Word of God.
[Incidentally, today I was reading an article today titled “Advice for Better Bible Memory.” In that article, there was a video attachment to a sermon given by David Platt. Listening to this sermon – which I highly recommend – was something else. It was something else because it wasn’t really a sermon. It was the gospel. The gospel. Listening to this sermon, I got a glimpse of what I imagine hearing the Apostle Paul would have been like (which, it technically is). Or what being one of the followers of Jesus Christ and listening to the words of Jesus Christ would be like. And ultimately, it was what talking to Reggie felt like.]
I asked him a little about his life. He said he lives in Chesterfield, “in the woods.” I didn’t actually know if he had a home, so I asked him if the backpack he had with him was all of his belongings, and he said “No. I haven’t had a home for the last four years”. He said that in 2001 he got saved. He was 39 at the time. “I was hurting, and I went to bed one night and I asked God, ‘God, if what people say about you is true, make me not hurt anymore.’ And I woke up the next morning a completely different person.” He said he just follows where the Lord leads him. “Just like the Lord sent Abraham to different places,” he said, “the Lord is leading me to different places. I go wherever he leads me.”
I don’t think I’ve personally met anyone whose own will had so yielded to that of God’s. Imagine God’s joy in having a servant whose will is so bent, so malleable, so aligned with His own. Imagine His infinite delight to know that He can work through this servant, knowing that his desire is to make much of Him and not of himself.
Towards the end of our conversation, I told him I was struggling with letting go of the things of this world. Letting go of my future, and the things I’m holding onto like my education, material things, family, etc. and fully giving myself to God. I told him how I feel much of the things I’m doing in my life right now doesn’t feel eternal. About how it doesn’t really feel like I’m doing things out of care for others’ eternity. About how I don’t think I’m really thinking about the glory of God in everything I do. I mentioned Luke 9, when people were asking Jesus how they could follow him. I remembered something I read from Radical by David Platt and said, “It’s almost as if Jesus is trying to talk them out of following him. He says, ‘Do you want to bury your father? You can’t be my disciple. Do you want to say goodbye to your family? You can’t be my disciple. You don’t want to let go of shelter or take up your cross (and instrument of torture and shame)? You can’t be my disciple.’ ” I told him that it’s such a radical calling and I don’t know if I ever really grasped the entirety and radicalness of what God was commanding us to do until now. I asked him if he had anything for me to pray for him about, and I asked him to pray for me. But he said, “No. No sister. See, what you need is for the Spirit of God to come down and enter you and transform you. Stop asking God for things, to do things, and bless things. You think you know what to do, but you don’t know the will of God. You just need to yell it out to God. You just need the Spirit to come down and enable you.”
At the end, I asked him for a picture to remember him and this conversation. I said that I want to remember the interactions I had with people and journal my spiritual walk, because I’m human and I’m a forgetful person and I forget the grace of God. But he told me, “You shouldn’t live your faith in the past. Always keep looking forward. Jesus, he didn’t dwell on all the things he did. He only thought about what’s to come. Paul says to forget the things of the past and keep moving forward.” I think as humans, we are prone to forgetting the Son’s sacrifice and God’s grace, so it’s good to have remembrance, but I think I understood what he was trying to say. I realized that maybe I was thinking about depending on the past to derive strength and faith from for the hardships of the future, when such power only comes from the God Himself. I asked if I could share my conversation with others so that they can be encouraged by the Spirit as well, and I asked him again this time around if I could take a picture so that if others see him, they might come talk to him as well. I think he was pleased, but he declined the picture again and said, “No. One time I had a dream from God and in the dream I was on TV. And some things happened, and I wasn’t on TV no more. I think God was telling me to not be on media.” I think perhaps he thought that he was going to be rather “out there” and in the public eye. It was strange, but then again, if that’s God’s will, who am I to question it?
There was one thing he said during our conversation that really made an impression on me. Reggie said,
“It’s not up to us to understand the will of God. It’s up to us to obey.” How many times do we pray to God and ask Him to help us understand and reveal to us His will? (I’m not talking about the times in the Bible where it specifically mentions that we are doing the will of God when we do certain things). I think when we think about “will” we oftentimes associate it with “future.” If you think about it that way, when we say, “Lord, please reveal to me your will, and I will do it,” it’s the exact same thing is “Please reveal to me the future, and I will do it.” Isn’t that the exact opposite of faith though? Asking him to show us the way and illuminate our paths and then we will follow? This is walking by sight, not faith. True faith is not understanding the will of God, but even in our blindness, trusting that it is perfect and good, and following His lead. Romans 2:12 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Piper said there’s two wills of God,; the moral will and God’s will will, and he could do 12 sermons on just the second part of that verse alone. But in a sermon I was listening to, he mentioned something important to take away: the same Greek word for “transform” is only used one other time in the gospel, in Matthew 17:2, where Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” “Transfigured” shares the same Greek word as “transformed.” According to this, “Transformation is something that is remarkable,” said Piper, and went on to talk about the Spirit of God entering our mind and our hearts. Reggie recited to me Galatians 2:20 when I mentioned it and he, like Piper, emphasized the need for the Spirit to come down and transfigure us on the inside. First. Transform us first, according to the order of that verse. And then we will be able to test – not that God’s will be revealed to us – but that we may test the will of God. That we will blindly put our foot forward first and God will direct us.
I’ll conclude with one of my favorite verses, which I referenced during my conversation with Reggie to which he responded by eagerly proclaiming,
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. – Romans 10:17