God works in mysterious—and sometimes icky—ways.
Some years back I was booked as a guest speaker for a “Halloween Alternative” celebration on San Juan island, the largest of Washington state’s 400 isle San Juan group. Co-sponsored by churches on several of the bigger islands, it promised to be the youth event of the week.
I flew into Seattle, picked up a rental car and headed north. A two-and-a-half hour drive and a one-hour ferry ride later, I arrived feeling as brisk as the October breeze!
As the opening band finished their sound check, youth pastor Dave arrive with our dinner: greasy fries and big, drippy cheeseburgers! Shortly thereafter, for some mysterious reason, I felt a mite queasy. So I lay down on a cot backstage.
By the time Dave roused me the auditorium was packed! And so was my abdominal tract. I was green in the face and roiling like a tsunami. Still, the show—and the message—must go on.
The band finished. The costumed crowd cheered. I’d been asked to “be funny” before segueing into the serious closing. So I told my Fat Cat and Toby the Turtle stories, while silently praying, Please, God, I don’t think You brought me here to hurl regurgitated French fries at teenage zombies and princesses!
They laughed, never dreaming I was fighting back a rising tide of grease and bile. As I moved into the message, and a heartfelt invitation to commit or recommit their lives to serving God and others, my nausea reached its peak. Lord, I don’t care what happens to me, just don’t let me spew while talking about You!
Suddenly, a wave of warmth came over me—the nausea was gone! I invited everyone to join me in a love song to our Savior. As I strummed the guitar Dave had loaned me, grateful for the relief and for the hundred or so teenagers who’d come forward with joyful faces, that warmth began to make its way down my legs.
It was one of the weirder things I’ve done, leading kids in singing while warm brown liquid oozed down the back of my pants and pooled in my shoes. As the song ended, I backed offstage, smiling innocently.
Fortunately, the backstage bathroom had a shower. Church leaders were still praying with kids when I returned and joined them—wearing a fresh set of clothes.
We sometimes learn later why things happened the way they did. Other times we don’t. This was one of those other times. Someday I’ll know. In the meantime, I smile, taking the bile with the sweet, and remember those teenagers’ faces.
“In this world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33