After class one day I had a student from the public speaking course ask me if she could do her important person speech on Jesus. I teach at a public community college, and it just isn’t every day that people want to get up and talk about God. I was ecstatic.
She was a nontraditional student and had spent the majority of her life working in a factory that had closed when the economy went south. The next day when she gave her speech, she told the class that she had met Jesus when she was seven years old. She spoke about how she was the youngest of her other siblings, and often felt left out. At seven, she started to spend a lot of time sitting and thinking under her parents’ lilac tree. During one of those lonely afternoons at the age of seven, she said that Jesus actually physically visited her.
“I wasn’t afraid when I saw Him,” she said. “I knew He had simply stopped by so that I would have a friend.” He didn’t say anything to her, just smiled at her, and stood in silence. After a few minutes, He was gone, and she ran inside to tell her mother Who she had just seen. It was the end of the 1960s, and most families owned a large picture Bible that they could read with the kids.
“What did the man look like?” her mother asked her. She went to the picture Bible, opened it up to a picture of Jesus, and said, “This was Him, Mommy.”
“Well,” her mother told her, “you must be a very special little girl for Jesus to come visit you.” At the conclusion of her speech, she spoke the words I am sure everyone was thinking.
“In my life,” she said, “I haven’t really felt all that special. I often wonder if Jesus visited me that day because I had something I was supposed to do with my life and never did. I’m certainly no one special, and spent most of my life working in a factory. For a long time I could not understand why Jesus would ever choose to visit me.” She lowered her head a bit, and I watched as her lips quivered.
“Recently,” she continued, “I decided that there could be only one reason that Jesus would ever want to meet with me under the lilac tree that day.” She stopped and looked up, meeting the gaze of the entire classroom, who were all silent, waiting to hear what she would say.
“The only thing I can think of as to why Jesus would visit me is because I was important to Him.” Her quivering lips fell still and then curved into a smile. With those last words hanging heavily in the air I could feel her eyes penetrating mine and with that and she sat down.
Her speech shook me the rest of the day and into the days to come. In all honesty, when she first said she met Christ face-to-face, my very first thought was Well, why would Christ meet you and not me? I read my Bible, probably more than you do. I pray, probably more than you do, I fast, preach sermons, write devotional books, and He hasn’t met with me face-to-face? In fact, I have spent many nights begging to simply hear His voice, and to this day have never heard Him speak to me audibly.
It’s funny, because in our own minds, we think we have to really be someone to get God to care about us, nonetheless to visit us face-to-face. What I find comical is that in the scheme of heaven and the angels, whatever big shot you are on earth probably means nothing. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our biggest deal, our most talented, or educated, or rich, or beautiful, or strongest person, falls tremendously in comparison to whatever concept we think worthy to meet face-to-face with God.
So what if we all went back to the basics? What if the only criterion we needed to believe that God loved us, or even harder, to believe that God loved other people who we, or this world, didn’t see as “special enough” to meet His standards, was simple? What if the only reason we needed to love each other was equally as basic?
My heart was ripped open by that student that day because I realized how unpretentious God really is. Yes, I believe that in the 1960s there was a lonely little girl who did not feel special and spent afternoons secluded under a lilac tree. I also believe that Jesus visited her once, and not because of anything extraordinary, but simply because she was His, and because she was important to Him.
Heather Thompson Day is the author of Hook Line and Sinker, (a dating book for teens) and Cracked Glasses (a devotional) You can order your copy of Cracked Glasses at: http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/cracked-glasses.html