“You’ve got nothing to give him. I sent him for YOU.”
These were the words of God that ran through my head. I stood in my kitchen with an old, tattooed, water heater repairman as he apologized for “only speaking hillbilly.” We happened into a conversation about spiritual things, and I can’t even remember how. But there we were. So, as is my habit, I silently asked God, “Is there something I could say or give to Butch?” I swear I heard an audible laugh from God. As it turns out, it was Butch who came to give something to ME.
I asked Butch how he came to know God, and he said, “I wouldn’t want to offend you.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. ”Butch, you don’t know me, but rest assured: I am NOT easily offended. Now I have to hear it.”
He told me that he sat in a jail cell four decades ago after realizing he was a disgrace to himself and his father’s name and said:
“God I don’t know if you’re real, but I hear people talk like you are. If you’re there, would you please tell me who you are and why my life has turned out this way?”
Butch said that night he got a visit from God Himself. In that visit, God showed him who Jesus was and took him back through Butch’s entire life, showing him where He had been at every turn. God told Butch that he’d always belonged to Him from before he was born. God showed Butch a lie he’d believed about himself as a boy and how that had caused him to live into that lie and become the man he was today.
Butch teared up as he talked about what that night meant. He told me a couple of other equally miraculous stories about encountering God (one on a Harley in a thunderstorm). He said he never knew the Bible, but people sometimes told him that he said things that were in there. He was now reading it all for the first time. He said he’d been low a lot in his life. Butch had been in jail many years after the night he encountered God but said he’d never again disgraced his father’s name. He said God had taught an “old hillbilly” like him how to be a man and love Jesus.
Somewhere in the middle of this exchange, I realized that Butch was incredibly precious to God. It hit me that God buried beautiful, unspeakable, spiritual things in this old hillbilly. He had chosen to reveal things to Butch that I’d probably never see. But God loved me enough to send Butch to ring my doorbell. I felt like the lucky one to get 45 minutes with Butch.
I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “Good thing you didn’t miss it. Good job seeing my precious son.”
In that very moment, I understood that I had nothing to offer Butch. I knew more about the Bible, was more educated, younger, stronger, healthier. At least at first, he probably saw me as one of the “fancy people” whose houses he worked in. But the truth was that I was very, very small compared to this spiritual giant.
Butch told me about singing songs to Jesus in the rain, about praying for a baby that was actually healed. He told me about his love of Harleys, and how he was known in prison as “the guy who could fix anything.” He told me they used to lock him up sometimes during thunderstorms because they were afraid he could short the security system and escape. He laughed and said he probably could have, but he wouldn’t do that. Because it would have disgraced his Father. I now wondered which father he meant.
As soon as I realized that Butch was sent to me by God, I wanted whatever he came to give. All I could think to do was ask Butch if he would pray for me. He agreed. He prayed over me and encouraged me. He told me, “You reached out in faith by asking. You know God always rewards faith, right?”
I could only nod because I felt the lump in my throat. (And I silently wondered whether my upcoming MRI would be clear). Then we walked toward the front door to say goodbye. Butch stopped suddenly and turned around. He put his palm on my forehead and prayed again. He said:
“Father make her a light. Lift up her words for others to hear. Make her life, and all the words that she speaks, a testimony to You and to your goodness. Raise her up and bless her. Amen.”
I’m pretty sure that I, also, had a visit from God Himself. His name was Butch. I had nothing to offer him. He was just a gift for me to receive, and it would have been so easy to be too busy or too snobby to see it.
This is the deal with Jesus, too. We come empty, nothing to give Him. He comes to us in unexpected ways but does all the talking, all the blessing. He only requires that we reach out in faith, listen to his words, and take what he came to give.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”(John 6:29).