We had just moved and boxes were still being unpacked when there was a knock at the door. It was N. and he asked me a question that led us into a most interesting relationship. “Could you lead an AA group?” We sat down. It unfolded that N. was required by a judge to be a part of an AA group but because of his most recent DUI he could not drive to the neighbouring community to a meeting. After a long discussion we decided we could hold a 12 step group if that would satisfy the court. This arrangement was soon settled and N. and I began to meet regularly.
N. was not on the same page with me about naming God as He has revealed himself in Jesus, as the Higher Power but I firmly believe that an honest ‘seeking’ will ultimately lead to God. “Seek and you will find.” So we began right where N. was and began an honest inquiry into the spiritual nature of a problem that was essentially a spiritual one.
Over the months N. came to name God as his Higher Power but never really surrendered management of his life. Sometimes he would show up quite drunk and our meeting would abruptly end but he would come again the next week and we would pick up the conversation. Often I would confront him with the truth that if he really wanted health he must first surrender. He would nudge up to commitment but at the last minute would ‘back away’. When this would happen I would feel strangely relieved! As I examined this sense of relief I came to realize that I had a sense that if N. made such a commitment at my invitation that he would become my responsibility. N. led a messy and needy life and I was certain I was not up to the challenge of personally discipling this man.
One Sunday I invited him to come with me while I spoke at a local church. We had developed a warm friendship and he accepted my invitation and came to support me. I had a standing monthly preaching engagement at this “Gospel Church”. The church consisted of older people for the most part. They knew their church was geriatric and longed for new converts. They prayed continual about this but did not have many connections with those outside their own fellowship. They were delighted to see N. He was to them what red meat must be to a hungry lion! After the service I was chatting with folks on the front step when a couple of the men came to get me. “We are gathered around N. and we are sure he wants to accept Jesus as his saviour. Could you come and help us?” I went in and saw N. surrounded by a group of gray heads. Something in my spirit said “This is the moment!” Rather than asking N. if he was ready to decide, I changed tactics. “N. can you think of any reason why you shouldn’t surrender to Jesus right now?” I had turned the question on end and N. could not think of a good reason so we began to pray together and shortly N. was asking Jesus to be his Lord.
That group of men became his eager disciplers. They shared with him and prayed for him and drove him to appointments. I was for the most part, a grateful spectator of the Body of Christ at work in N.’s life. I had feared that a needy N. would be more than I could handle and I was right but he was no burden to this fellowship of men who had been longing for just such an opportunity. N. brought them a gift as well they now had an entrée into a world that was up to that moment inaccessible to them.
This story reminds me that God has wonderful plans! In the words of Hannibal, from the A Team “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?”