Written as a spoken word response for the sermon series “This is My Story” at FUMC Richardson’s Access Worship Community, performed September 9, 2018. “How do you experience wonder and hope?”
Over the years, I’ve experienced wonder in the voices of unexpected, random, people—blown into my life by the mysterious wind of the Spirit. Sometimes their presence makes sense—given a bit of hindsight. But mostly, it never does.
Except to remind me of some hope just around the corner.
The interim preacher singing with the Elvis impersonator who told me God had a plan for my life.
The flannel-clad trucker at the Virginia gas station who told me to stop driving.
The artsy, antiquer who simply said, “Welcome Home” at that communion table surrounded by middle school youth.
The hospital roommate who spoke healing over my sick body in the middle of the night.
The smiling cowboy humming Willie Nelson in the burger joint restroom who confirmed my career.
The octogenarian pediatric nurse sitting next to me at the U2 concert who told me about all of my fears.
Even the dancing professor seeking shelter from the rain at the festival this summer who told me something about the next phase of my life.
None of them trained Pentecostals with penchants for prophesy, in fact—they usually apologize and reassure me “they’ve never done anything like this before.” And then they say it—sheepishly—the thing that’s pushed out from the backs of their throats by way of obedience and divine enigma. For them, it’s usually something small—whimsical even. Yet—in it for me—the reaffirming of a present God far more close—more personal and mysterious—than the one I’ve, yet again, convinced myself otherwise of.
Once, while recounting the newest of these stories to my best friend, I marveled at why God would choose such strange interactions to affirm or challenge the direction of my path. “Because you love it,” he quickly said. And I do. I really do.
Because I’m an Act Two person. Stories mean everything to me. And I’ve always loved Act Two. Be it my Papaw Bartlett’s Badger Tale, The Merchant of Venice, Peter Pan, Back-to-the-Future, The Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars, I love the tension of Act Two. For some, it’s too dark. But for me, it’s where things get good. It’s real. By Act Two we’ve already met the hero and discovered all the devices that can bring about resolution. But it hasn’t happened yet. And we’re stuck in between a glimpse at glorious climax and gritty reality. Every character matters. Every dialogue moves us forward. And sometimes new characters are introduced as vehicles just to get us through the mayhem—to remind us that there’s more to come. In writing, they’re called “Flat Characters,” though they are typically full of personality. In aiding the protagonist, they move the story through the muck.
And so I find myself in my own Act Two. And I need to be reminded of the hope that’s out there in Christ—even when it’s painfully deferred. I feel stuck. I need a Lando Calrissian. I need Lorraine McFly. I need Faramir. And I need them to speak the words that God put in them. That’s where I find holy wonder: in human connections I could never orchestrate in my capacity who utter affirmations they could never craft in theirs. It’s actually far more intimate and wild than hearing a booming voice from the heavens or a gentle wind blow through the mountains—that God would care enough to connect these little divine breadcrumbs with humanity—men and women with beautiful stories their own, some charming accents, and sometimes even enviable cowboy hats!
Sure, I wonder at how God uses them in my Act Two, but maybe we’re all part of a great community of flat characters—all with our own lines to speak. Maybe I’m a voice in someone’s wonder today—their Act Two. We’re all just Act Two people grasping for a little hope.
So what small, seemingly innocuous word am I being led to speak to a stranger?