Where I left you yesterday (forgive me if that cliff-hanger was a major bummer — but can you imagine if I crammed all this into one or two posts?) I was sitting across the table from an old friend who’d lost his wife and child. Suddenly finding myself there, with a beer and a slice of pie was a surprise, but the next surprise was even bigger.

{Note: This post is Part Four in this series. I highly recommend reading the first three first! You can start here.}


After my friend had the opportunity to pour his heart out for a while, I could only reply by expressing how truly sorry I was for his loss. I think he could sense my sincerity — it is very likely that I was choking back tears. After a brief lull in the conversation, he looked at me and said:

“I thought you were gonna come here and try to save me.”

And my jaw almost hit the floor. I understood what he meant. He didn’t expect a friend, or a listening ear. He didn’t expect to be able to relax and drink a beer and tell his story without feeling judged — and perhaps as if he’d gotten what he deserved for not following Jesus when I’d talked about Him years before. But instead, he knew he was sitting across the table from someone who genuinely cared, and, you can argue with me about this all you want, I honestly think me meeting him where he was — beer and listening ear — had everything to do with all of it meaning something significant to him.

I was quick to reply “I can’t save you, man.”

And then the conversation took another course I didn’t expect. He asked about my sister, remembering her from years before as the life of the party, and a little on the wild side. I shared that she’d become a Christian, and I shared the story of how the Lord had put it on my heart to pray for her every day for a year, believing by the end of that year, she’d come to know Him. God was faithful to deliver on that promise when I still had some 219 days left to pray, and my sister, who was an incredible person before, is an incredible woman of God today.

He was surprised by this story and paused thoughtfully for a moment.

“Please…do that for me.”

I understood how big it was for him to make that request. I understood that life had brought him to his knees and he literally knew of nowhere to look but up. And a heart that was once so hardened to the things of God was suddenly soft, and willing, and maybe even hungry.

I promised I would pray for him, and I kept to my promise, and for that year, and quite often even since, he’s been in my prayers. I can’t tell you I know how’s he doing, because we haven’t been in contact for a long time. But I’m trusting that just as rain and snow fall to the Earth and always water it, before returning to the heavens, God’s goodness will fall in His life, because he was hungry for it, because I was praying for it, and because the Lord desires it more than anything else.

So what does a life of mercy and not sacrifice look like? I can’t tell you I know for sure yet. I can tell you it looks a lot more like listening for the voice of God and a lot less like making your own laws for following. It has less to do with making sure you’re in this place at this time on this day of the week, and it has more to do with looking at your own heart, and asking for help so that it will look more like God’s heart.

The journey the Lord takes each of us on is different. But the destination is ultimately the same. He has a vision to present us as a pure and spotless bride, to be His and love Him for all eternity. It’s a narrow path. It’s a humble road. But it is also, one foot in front of the other, Christ in us — and that makes it such a beautiful picture of glorious.