A couple weeks ago during a daddy-daughter date night, I had the privilege of escorting two of the most beautiful princesses to a fine dining establishment…that serves burgers, fries and has a giant star that I think is named “Carl Jr.” Before you knock it, please be sure to consider the clean and elaborate play structure. I say that as if I am a responsible parent; however, secretly deep down I think I gravitate to this particular location because the foot traffic within the play area seems to be less than others in the area. Am I the only father who goes on “code red” alert whenever a male child of same size and age as my daughters enters the play area? Why do I automatically assume that every object within reach will become a projectile within the hands of a male child? Why do I find myself mentally mapping out various points of entry to the play structure with pre-planned exit strategies just in case I have to breach the structure in the event of a recon mission? Everything was going according to plan…my plan, until I saw him.
We were just sitting there enjoying our hand-breaded chicken fingers, about to take full of advantage of the vacant play structure when a dad showed up, hat backwards, 6’5’-ish, athletic build, with a nice, manly beard, appeared as if he just came from an MMA victory, and looked as if he could have bench pressed me a couple times without even straining. His companions were two young children close in age to my daughters. I previously shared how I tend to shy away from the manly-men who might serve as the poster child, excuse me, poster man for a rugged outdoor sport magazine. This has adversely prevented me from developing several friendships that God has dropped into my lap.
Due to the fact that the play area was being overrun with new children, I decided to get up and move my seat to the very front of the play structure. I know it sounds overprotective, but I blame it on the self-diagnosed separation anxiety. While relocating, I accidentally made eye contact with this stranger and he immediately exclaimed that he knew me!
Five months prior we stopped by another eating establishment on the way home from church and ran into one of my wife’s old classmates from high school. Running into people from my own high school has been more common since I attended school locally; however, Stacey attended high school in Parker, AZ. I didn’t give the interaction much more thought until now. This man standing in front of me was Matthew, my wife’s classmate who I met in passing almost half a year prior.
As our children played, this person who I thought I would have nothing in common with sat in conversation for about an hour talking about Christ, church, children, career and other commonalities. In fact, a couple sitting near us overheard us reference the Dream Center and joined in on the conversation. They had recently moved to the area and were looking for a home church. The evening wrapped up with an invitation to attend church and each “stranger” recognized that we all met through a divine appointment.
The more I have an opportunity to interact with all types of people, I have been learning to not judge a book by its cover and that God has placed me in very strategic or specific places to help share His love with those I encounter. More importantly, I am starting to realize that while they may be strangers to me, they are God’s children and need Jesus just as much as I do. The next time you witness another student drop something on the promenade as you head to class, view the act of stopping as a divine appointment. When racing to meet a deadline at work, you learn of a co-workers’ hardship at home; taking a moment to stop and ask how you can help is a divine appointment. When racing to complete an assignment prior to the midnight deadline and someone knocks on the door asking for help carrying a heavy load…that is a divine appointment.
Please don’t confuse my use of “divine appointment” with a category such as “missed connections” from Craigslist. By divine appointment, I mean there are no coincidences with God. Every encounter, every interaction and every moment is an opportunity to be strategically used by God to positively impact those who He has placed in our path. Most times we may view these as “inconveniences.” It would have been much easier and saved a lot of time to have simply smiled at Matthew and stated that it was nice to see him again. However, by delaying our exit and bedtime routine with my girls, a newly-rooted couple was able to receive a church invite and I was able to be encouraged by the testimony of a former classmate of my wife.