The UPS man has been coming to our door a good deal lately. I’m not sure why. Perhaps we’ve been ordering more than usual during this season as we prepare for our first home. Perhaps there has just been a confluence of gifts from friends and family as we prepare for our first child. Whatever the reason, it seems he’s here on almost a daily basis.
Typically, I have been a little embarrassed to see him. Our dog, Bear, usually goes nuts when someone knocks on the door. We’ve been training her to be calm, but Yorkiepoos vibrate like hummingbird wings unless it’s mid-morning or late evening. So I would be working in the kitchen, perhaps on the phone, when the knock came. I would have a phone on one shoulder, a barking tornado at my ankle, and I would be trying to crack the door open far enough to get the package through the door but narrow enough to keep out a small dog’s head. I’m sure our delivery man sees all kinds on his routes, but I’m embarrassed just the same.
So it was our good fortune yesterday to see the big, brown truck parked outside our building as we walked down to our car. Anna wondered aloud whether her latest package had come, and I asked her if she’d like me to check. Before she said yes, I saw the UPS driver point at me and nod. I thought he might have just told someone, “There’s this guy with this little yipping dog with a pink collar who jumps eight feet in the air when I knock,” and then saw me, and pointed. But he was simply letting me know he had a package for us.
I was impressed by his memory, that he could associate my face with our apartment number. So I walked up to him, introduced myself, and asked him his name. He told me, we shook hands, I took the package, and thanked him again as I walked back to our car. I had a moment’s pause to consider why the hand of Providence had moved in this way, and I wouldn’t know for another day.
This morning, another knock came at the door. I opened the door to find my new friend, holding still another package in his hand. I signed for the package and thanked him by name. He left, calling me by name as well. We were like old friends.
At the time, I had been reading A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, which incidentally is a really beautiful book, and I had been moved by some of the inspirational passages in the story. As I went back into my house and resumed my reading, I felt a small prompting from God to give this man a copy of Crave. I already feel a little awkward when people ask me about the book, because I haven’t yet learned to give God all the glory for this gift, so I felt even more awkward bringing the book up in conversation with him. But I was in the mood to be inspired, and I wanted to be obedient, so I took one of the last copies I had been saving and vanished out the front door, hoping to find the UPS truck still below.
I should add at this point that I also hoped the truck wouldn’t be there. It seems just as well to act in obedience with the hope that I won’t actually have to follow through. But the truck was still in the parking lot, in front of the building to my right. So I took the long slow walk down the stairs, with a new copy of this book swinging in my hand, wondering what I would say. What I did say is not that important, and he took the book, thanking me with a look that intimated gratitude for a gesture outside his routine. But what I found even more important were the emotion I felt and the thought I had as I walked back upstairs.
As I climbed the first flight of stairs, I held a moment of self-congratulatory applause within my soul. I had been obedient to God, and I had done something a little strange in extending myself to a stranger in this way, so I felt I deserved a little credit for my action. But by the second flight of stairs, I had this thought, which I soon recorded in my journal: “God, it is no great feat that I give to a man a Christian book or a word from the gospel, but it is the greatest of feats that you may do in a man with a book or through the gospel.”
This was a humbling thought, but an exhilarating one all the same. What reason have I to boast in myself if my actions, however hard they may seem, are truly no great feats? The greatest of feats is not a mountain climbed, or a company conquered, or a nation ruled, or a stone lifted. The greatest of feats is the changing of a sinner’s heart, the regeneration of a person’s soul. I cannot save a man’s soul. I cannot give my life as payment in his place. I cannot give him my righteousness.
But Jesus can do this, and has done this, for all who believe. I pray my new friend will believe one day, that perhaps what he may read will spurn him to hear and respond to the gospel, that he will find so much more of God in the process, and that what C.S. Lewis wrote about Vanauken would be true about this man: “I think you are in the meshes of the net! The Holy Spirit is after you. I doubt if you’re get away!”
In all this, I rest in the knowledge that the greatest of feats has been accomplished, and that the fruit of the Son’s obedience continues to have effect in this sinner’s life and the lives of sinners all around the world. We are called to a noble, great, and dangerous work—following this crucified Savior—but we need not summon our own courage and strength to get it done. He is sufficient, and we are all safely in the meshes of the net, being chased, and now led, by His Holy Spirit, and are forever His.
Question: What feats have you been tempted to claim credit for?