The three hours of Thanksgiving aromas had gathered in the laughing clamor and produced a feast on a beautifully adorned table. I was carving the turkey, responding to my three children’s requests for drum sticks, when I heard a noise in the back of the house. I handed the knife to my dad and went to investigate.
I saw him when I turned on the light in the family room. He was a tall, slender man dressed in a light gray jacket and a blue knit hat. He stood there casually, leaning against the wall next to the back door with a pleasant smile on his face. I knew I had seen him before, but I couldn’t recall who he was. For some reason, I wasn’t startled, fearful, or angry, even though he stood inside my house, uninvited. “What are you doing here?” I asked him. “I was cold,” was his simple reply. “Are you hungry?” He nodded his head, still standing without apology, seemingly comfortable with his surroundings and circumstance. “I’ll be right back, stay right there,” I said and went to get him something to eat.
My family was busy serving their plates when I walked in and took a few things without saying a word about our guest. I was concerned that they’d be alarmed. I went back into the kitchen and pulled out a large grocery sack and packed away the turkey wing, a couple of rolls, and several other items that were on the counter.
The man was still where I left him. He smiled as he received the bag. I asked him if he would like something warm to wear. He said he would. I asked him what size coat he wore. “42L,” he said. That was my size. He seemed much larger. I went past the family gathering once again to get to the hallway coat closet.
There were so many coats that the hangers were all jammed together, looking like they didn’t even need the rod to stay up. I saw my favorite: a zip-up, thermal-lined sweatshirt with a hood. I knew that it would keep him warm from my many experiences playing soccer in the front yard with my kids. Yet, it was special to me, so I found a couple of pullover sweatshirts that I knew I never wore. The colors were kind of funny…maroon and pumpkin-colored.
I went back out to the rear door and gave him the sweatshirts. He quietly pulled one on while holding the other between his knees. Just at that moment, my father came up behind me, took off his sweater, and handed it to the man. The man commented on how much he liked it as he pulled it down over his belly, slowly letting his fingers ripple over the cabling in the weave of the knit.
My father went back to the table, and the man turned to walk out the door. Then it occurred to me that I should tell the man about Jesus. But before I could form this thought into words, he turned, smiled, and said, “I am he.”
At that moment, my alarm clock rang. I woke up. I was shivering cold. The blankets had come off. I jumped out of bed, running to the closet, hoping to catch Jesus before He cleared my driveway. I wanted to give Him my best; I wanted Him to have my thermal-lined sweatshirt. Halfway to the closet, I turned, my mind fighting the dissidence between a dream that seemed so real and the reality that was painted by bare feet on a cold hallway floor.
Confusion reigned in the cloud of waking up. Maybe I can grab it, run out to the driveway. Even if Jesus isn’t there, maybe I can get half credit. I slid back under the covers. I had missed my opportunity. That man wasn’t an intruder. I had invited Him into my life years ago. Why was He banished to the role of beggar in the back room of my life? I lay there looking at my heart.
The fact that I missed the opportunity to give Jesus my best was not the point. When I saw the need at my back door, I quickly went through a mental checklist of what I should do to be a ‘Good Christian’. The man at my back door was a pebble in my ‘good guy’ shoe. I had to deal with him to stay a good Christian, but I was motivated to get him out so that I can get on with my life without losing my Christian standing.
There I lay, my Christian veneer pulled back, my shallow motives exposed. I remember that dream every Thanksgiving.
I do not think I am being hard on myself or being overly dramatic when I ask the following questions. I know that I need to constantly check myself.
John, Is Jesus, an intruder at your back door?
Do you spend enough time with Him so that you know His voice, and do you listen for and heed His direction? Is He truly Lord of your Life?
I do give thanks that the Lord of thunder and Lightning, is also the patient Gentlemen, willing to meet me at the back door of my dream, to wake me up.
Executive Director, Long Island Youth Mentoring