I had just come back from picking up lunch today. Never mind what it was. No, it was not healthy. As I entered the church building I thought to myself, “Should I lock the door behind me? I’m pretty sure I’m in this building all by myself. No, I don’t think the mail has come yet.” So I left it unlocked and went to my office to eat and play Words with Friends.
Not five minutes later someone came in. A young man I had never seen before stuck his head in my office and asked if it would be alright if he stayed inside to pray. I confess, it did cross my mind to wonder if that was what he really wanted, but although it wasn’t as hot as yesterday, it was still hot outside and I told him, “Of course you may.” Then he said he wanted to pray in the sanctuary. Again I said, “Of course.” So I walked into the sanctuary with him apologizing that it wasn’t very cool in there. He had on casual but nice clothes, but he was drenched with sweat and had a nearly empty water bottle with him.
When we got to the front of the sanctuary I asked if he wanted to pray alone or for me to pray with him. He asked if he could do both. My response was, you guessed it, “Of course.” So I asked if he wanted me to pray for anything specific and the floodgates opened. He began to talk about many things bothering him. He wanted to be delivered from sexual demons. He wanted to be a better Christian. He had just broken up with his girlfriend the night before. And the whole time he was talking a part of my brain was asking, “Should I be scared?” I have a pretty good BS alarm in my head and although the words of his story were, I don’t know, unusual, they seemed honest and heartfelt.
For some reason I wasn’t scared. So we went to the chancel steps because he wanted to kneel and he hunkered way down in a pose of abject supplication. I put my hand on his back and I prayed. In between petitions I silently prayed for God not to allow me to let this young man down, to let me say what he needed to hear. I prayed what was for me a long time, and then I was silent but still standing there with my hand on his back. When I closed the prayer with “Amen” he stood up and wanted to stay for a while by himself. I said he could stay as long as he liked. I told him where the water fountain and men’s room were and I left and went back to my lunch.
He didn’t really stay too much longer – maybe ten minutes – and he stopped by my office to say thank you and good-bye. I told him he to come back any time, he was always welcome. And he left.
Who knows whether or not I will ever see this young man again? It doesn’t really matter. He was clearly seeking some sort of sanctuary; some sort of release; some comfort. I hope he found that. I hope I didn’t let him down. I hope that we both wake up tomorrow knowing it is a new day full of possibilities. I hope that we both find some way to make a positive difference for someone else.