Have you ever found God in an unlikely place?
I didn’t plan to be sipping on orange juice, cranberry, and vodka while smoking a Macanudo and reading Brennan Manning’s All is Grace.
I didn’t plan it this way. Really.
I didn’t plan to be doing all of this while enjoying a 50-degree sunset from Lookout Mountain.
I didn’t plan to meet Jesus out here. Not this early. We just arrived. Vacation has barely begun. But she is scrapbooking and Jesus, the Macanudo, and the cocktail were calling my name.
I didn’t plan to have my Granddaddy’s old Companion Bible out here with me. But somehow, this all fits together into a jigsaw puzzle I didn’t know I was completing. I take in a deep breath, exhale some good smellin’ smoke, and watch the clouds turn from orange to red to a blazing magenta.
And although I didn’t plan this, it is absolutely as it should be.
I didn’t plan for Jesus to meet me a few years back either, in a little coffee shop inside our church, dressed just like the previous owner of that old Companion Bible. Jesus, with a raggedy mustache, a three-day beard, and coffee stains on his plaid button-down. I didn’t plan to meet Jesus that way—that day.
I didn’t plan for Him to rescue me from my own bad theology and church hurts. I didn’t even know He cared.
And I never expected what happened next. To be called “rebellious” and “a heretic” for being more amazed by grace than scared of a fiery Hell. To be introduced to The Shack and The Ragamuffin Gospel at my lowest point, after serving the rules for so many years. I didn’t know performance-based Christianity wore on Jesus’ nerves even more than it wore on mine.
I didn’t plan for my Granddad to challenge me during that struggle to find God on my own, outside of my religious bubble. I didn’t even realize God could be found outside of the Bible Belt. I thought God was a gun-totin’, white middle-class, Republican, just like all the other Christians I knew.
I didn’t plan to find God this way. But I have.
His grace has found me on country dirt roads. Once, I encountered Jesus during a retreat at a Catholic monastery. And I came face to face with God in an ICU room, wishing I was dead. Each time, His grace has been more than I could ever imagine.
His friendship knows no bounds. His love doesn’t have the strings I once thought. He loves me - Steve Austin - the abused, addicted, anxious perfectionist. God—Jesus—Abba—whatever you choose to call Our Creator— God is wild about me. And honestly, whether you get it or not—whether you agree or not—whether you even like it or not, God is pretty crazy about you too.
Believe me: I couldn’t have planned it this way, but it’s true.
The sun is no longer visible. Just a magenta haze, peeking over the horizon. My glass has only two sips remaining, and my wife is ready to head over to The Wildflower Café.
I didn’t plan my life this way, but I like it.