The other day I had lunch with Jesus. That may or may not sound strange depending on who you are and what you believe. I have believed in God (the one and only God) for several years although I used to inaccurately envision Him as a detached supreme being, watching over His creation from afar, instead of as the encompassing, loving entity that He truly is. In actuality, He is much closer to us than we probably can even imagine. I wonder how I overlooked, for so many years, the fact that the name Immanuel (Jesus) actually means “God with us.” Duh! I no longer see God as being way out there in the universe somewhere because at times He’s in my own backyard. Literally!
I invited Jesus to have lunch with me this past week, and not surprisingly He accepted my invitation. I wish I could take credit for such a novel idea, but having lunch with Jesus was suggested by my pastor. He made the proposal to his congregation but only after experiencing the unconventional activity himself. Quietly praying to my Lord and Savior is an amazing thing, but speaking out loud to Him as a friend adds a whole other dimension to the relationship. At least that is what I have found to be true these past few years, so I was more than willing to partake in the soul training exercise as recommended.
I made myself a Reuben sandwich, but I did not make one for Jesus. I’m not crazy! However, I did pull out a chair for Him to sit on after bringing my Reuben, a handful of Cheetos, and a Snapple iced tea to the table outside underneath the covered patio. I began the luncheon by thanking Jesus for always being there with me even when I wasn’t truly aware of it in the past. I immediately thought about the beloved “Footprints in the Sand” poem as I visualized myself being carried by God. I was then compelled to thank Him for those trying times throughout my life when He absolutely “carried me.” I continued thanking Jesus, in between bites of my delicious sandwich and Cheetos, for my family and for all he has blessed me with.
I poured my heart out to my Savior with unconstrained emotion. I told Him what was on my mind, and I shared all of my recent concerns with Him. The time went by quickly, and I found I had much more to say to Jesus than I had anticipated. My sandwich had cooled off (as much as it could in the Arizona heat) before I was even halfway finished, but I continued conversing with my Lord until my plate was spotless. I admitted to Jesus I knew I had been hogging the conversation. I guess there was so much I needed to say and so much gratitude I wanted to express. I then informed Him I was going to shut up and just listen for a while because I longed to hear His voice in that special moment.
I also told Jesus how hearing a small voice would be fine, but a thunderous voice from Him would be a whole lot better because sometimes I’m not too bright, so subtleties are usually wasted on me. I closed my eyes and sat in silence. I listened intently but I didn’t hear a thing. I eventually opened my eyes and began surveying everything in the backyard before finally staring up at the sky in hopes of receiving some sort of a sign. Again, nothing. This new venture was foreign to me, so I wasn’t sure if I was executing the task in the proper manner or not. I decided to close my eyes and sit in silence some more. I heard myself softly repeating, “Please speak to me, I want to hear your voice.”
The popular biblical phrase, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” was the first thing that entered my mind for some reason. I promptly dismissed that notion because I figured maybe my ego was attempting to get in the way. Next, a pesky fly landed on my arm. It appeared to be the only one in my backyard, but obviously its mission was to bug me (pun intended) since it had been buzzing around the table the entire time I was having lunch with Jesus. Instantly, but only for a second or two, I thought, “Uh-huh, there’s a lesson to be learned here.” Maybe I had become easily annoyed lately, and Jesus was imploring me to “chill out.” Maybe.
Suddenly, I was no longer blanketed in peaceful silence. My neighbor to the east wandered out into his backyard, and soon I realized he was in no hurry to go back indoors. There was an incessant clanging, for the next several minutes, in which I perceived as having something to do with the transportation of ceramic flowerpots. Then a dog somewhere in the distance began barking and would not quit. A neighbor nearby, to the west of me, started-up some type of power saw that continued to run non-stop. Then I noticed an array of birds unified in one spirited song as though they were from the same choir. Another neighbor, on the other side of my southern cement wall, added to all of the other distractions by tossing his recyclables, one at a time of course, into an echoing receptacle.
Maybe I was being reminded of what my pastor has repeatedly proclaimed from the pulpit on Sunday mornings: We do not work where we work, play where we play, or live where we live by chance. I was placed in my neighborhood for a reason. As a follower of Christ I am called to be a good neighbor, and at times I am to be the light in someone’s darkness. Maybe I was suppose to be better aware of people’s needs especially of those who live around me. Probably. It was difficult for me to know for sure with the lack of silence now being so magnified. I told Jesus, “Apparently, our quiet lunch together is over, and maybe you didn’t have any earth-shattering thing to say to me at this time.”
As soon as the last word of that sentence left my mouth something happened. The once calm air transformed into a gusty wind upsetting the previously motionless wind chimes hanging above my head. The swaying chimes emitted a ding…ding…ding sound resembling what is commonly heard on television game shows when a correct answer is given by the contestant. It appeared as though Jesus was in agreement that our lunch date was indeed over. I began pondering what had transpired over the last hour, and I could not help but recall the “good and faithful” thought I initially had when I first sat there in silence. Maybe on this special occasion God simply was pleased I had taken the time to have lunch with Jesus.