Dunkin Donuts was always our destination on Sunday evenings when I was a young girl visiting my grandfather. After evening church service, we would excitedly pile into the car on our way to what I had anticipated all day!
I remember so clearly the many times my grandfather and I stood in line as I tried to decide which donut would be mine! Waiting patiently for our turn to order, my eyes were fixed ahead, taking in the colorful sprinkles and icings in front of me. My grandfather, however, wasn’t looking ahead at the selection of sweets. He was looking behind. Without fail, while I was choosing a donut, he was starting a conversation with whoever was behind him in line. I was always aware of the conversation, I just never focused on the content.
A few years ago while visiting my grandfather again, I found myself standing in the same line, in the same Dunkin Donuts on another Sunday evening after church. As an adult, I was no longer focused on the donuts ahead. For the first time, my attention was drawn to what was happening behind. My grandfather had started a conversation with a young man who was next in line. There was some small talk and laughter and at the perfect pause, my grandfather turned the conversation around. He looked at the young man and started to speak. ‘Son, let me ask you a question,’ he said. ‘Do you know Jesus?’ And the real conversation began.
It hit me at that moment that this was the conversation I had heard behind me in line for so many years. While I was choosing my donut, he was telling people about Jesus. Memories came flooding back. I had witnessed these conversations in other places as well. At restaurants, at stores, at church, no matter where we were, there was always a conversation, and the conversations…they were always about Jesus.
My grandfather’s conversations were different. He wasn’t like the others around him. My grandfather did it different.
God’s Word is full of men and women who did it different.
In the New Testament, right after the Christmas story in Luke 2, we are introduced to woman named Anna. In just a few short verses, we learn a lot about Anna. She was an older woman from the lost tribe of Asher. She was not from the more prestigious tribe of Judah, not from the priestly tribe of Levi. She was just a woman from the tribe of Asher, a people who had been separated after the exile in the Old Testament.
Anna’s journey started on a path that went exactly as planned. At a young age she was married like many of the other girls around her. As she said her vows, she probably anticipated children and a happily-ever-after, but only seven years later, Anna experienced a great loss. Anna’s husband died and she was left a young widow at a time when women were unable to fend for themselves.
Life had not gone the way Anna had planned.
I can imagine that after her time of grieving, well-meaning family and friends may have encouraged Anna to remarry. It was probably what anyone else would have done given Anna’s circumstances. Her needs would have been met, she would have had a home and possibly children in the future. It just made sense. She could have stayed right where she was and walked through life’s challenge just like everyone else did.
But Anna chose to do it different. Rather than working to meet her own needs, Anna put herself in God’s hands. Rather than remaining in the place of her disappointment, Anna ran to the temple. Anna chose in her disappointment to run to Him, to make her home in His presence, and once she was there, she never went back.
Life’s disappointment drove Anna closer to the presence of God and being in His presence positioned her to have an encounter with Jesus! Eighty-four years later, we find her in the temple on the very day that Jesus Himself entered the temple for the first time in the flesh, a baby carried by earthly parents to be presented to the Lord.
What if Anna had responded to her circumstances in the same way everyone else did? What if in her disappointment she had stayed where she was, rather than pursuing the presence of God? Anna would have missed the greatest joy of her life.
She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. Luke 2:38
Anna encountered Jesus…because Anna did it different. In the most glorious moment of her life, this now older woman responded to this encounter. She was compelled to speak, compelled to share, compelled to tell others the Rescuer had come! She was compelled to start a conversation…
Sounds likes someone else I know.
At my grandfather’s funeral this week, I heard the story that tied it all together, a story he hadn’t told. As a teenage boy in the navy, my grandfather served in World War II at the Battle of Normandy. On a minesweeper in the English Channel, his was one of three battleships to go into the channel that day. Only one battleship came out. I am sure the images of war and sinking ships that were engrained in his mind were heartbreaking. It was while he in the navy, during this time of great unknowns and disappointment that my grandfather had an encounter with Jesus. When faced with the unexpected, he chose to do it different. Life’s disappointment drove him into the presence of God, and once he was there, my grandfather never went back.
My grandfather encountered Jesus…because he did it different. In his most glorious moment, he, too, responded to the encounter. He was now a man compelled to speak, compelled to share, compelled to tell others the Rescuer has come…and is coming again. Every day for the rest of his life, he would engage those around him in the conversation. ‘Son, let me ask you a question.’ And then he’d go on, ‘Do you know Jesus?’
I can’t help but end with a question. Friend, do you know Jesus? Have you had an encounter with the One Who died to set you free? If not, you can make the choice to begin your journey with Jesus today. Let your challenges, your heartaches, your unexpected places drive you closer to Him. Run to His presence, make your home there, and never go back. Encounter Jesus and then share the good news with someone else. Be compelled to speak it, tell it, live it!
Be compelled to do it different!
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15