It was one of those inconvenient little things, like waiting in line at the bank or losing your keys. Those inconvenient little things can jeopardise your whole day's schedule--and my 11.30 appointment was one of those little things. It was going to be an ordinary Tuesday of responding to email, sending letters, filing, and any other routine tasks that were on my "To do" list.
My 11.30 appointment was with a woman from a company located near the airport, and she was coming to my office in Wahroonga to promote her company's services to me. I'm not good at small talk, so I don't look forward to meeting new people--and I was definitely not looking forward to this meeting.
I spent the morning thinking of ways to get out of having to meet with this woman. I thought about asking the receptionist to tell her I was sick or that I'd been called away unexpectedly. But I thought about how far this person would have travelled just to see me and I figured it would be really rude if I didn't see her and it wouldn't look good for me or the church. Then I thought I could just meet with her in the foyer so she wouldn't stay too long. I hoped she'd just hand me the brochures and leave.
The hour finally came and I went to the foyer to meet her. I shook her hand and instinctively I invited her to come up to my office. She was lovely really, and I suspected that she was as nervous as me about first encounters. She commented on the division office's neatly trimmed hedges, manicured lawns and the charm of the building itself. She was well spoken, well groomed and gracious. I was glad I had decided to invite her into my office.
We sat and chatted about various things. She asked many questions, initially about my work itself, but she soon asked more serious questions, such as about the state of the world. She explained that she wasn't raised in a religious household but that she felt a sense of spirituality and believed there was a "bigger picture." I sensed she was searching for deeper answers. As assistant in the stewardship department, I was often asked
regularly, "What exactly is stewardship?" This woman was no exception and asked the question straight out. It took two years working in this department for me to gain an understanding of stewardship and how I might explain it to someone with no background in Christianity. I took a deep breath and joked with her about asking good questions and making me get "technical."
As I explained the concept as simply and as clearly as I could, her face lit up. She expressed that what I had said made perfect sense to her. We chatted a little longer and as she got up to leave, I did something totally out of character for me, asking her if she would mind if I prayed for her. She agreed. I can't remember exactly what I prayed, but I could see she was touched and she thanked me for praying for her. She then left me with her company's brochures and in return I gave her a copy of Signs magazine and hopefully a desire to seek God.
That same day someone sent me an email entitled, "Where God wants me." It was a photo essay describing a few of the "inconvenient little things" that delayed some people who worked in the World Trade Center at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks and would have otherwise been at their desks at the time the first plane hit on that fateful day. It described one man who, thanks to a new pair of shoes, got a blister on his foot and stopped at a store to buy a bandaid. Another man was saved that day because it was simply his turn to bring doughnuts to work. Another person was taking their son to kindergarten for the first time. That's three lives that were saved by a few "inconvenient little things."
If I'd followed through with my thoughts to avoid meeting that woman, imagine how it would've looked to this person who was desperately seeking to connect with someone, desperate to find hope. It's incredible how God can take one of those "inconvenient little things" in your life and use them for His purposes. I was being selfish with my time, and God turned it around to remind me that my time is, in fact, His time.
Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5.
–Linzi Aitken was an assistant in the Stewardship Department of the South Pacific Division at the time of writing. She now works as an assistant to the president of the South Australian Conference in Adelaide, South Australia.